The Way to BE

A Common Substance More Addictive Than Cocaine: Breaking the Sugar Habit

Stephen Guyenet, a neurobiologist at the University of Washington, predicts that if we continue eating sugar with as much enthusiasm as we have over the last 200 years, by the year 2606 the U.S. diet will be 100% sugar.

The United States Department of Commerce and the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) have been keeping yearly records of sweetener sales since 1822. These are added sweeteners such as cane sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and maple syrup, not the natural sugars found in fruit.

According to the National Retail Federation’s Easter survey, Easter candy sales reached 2.3 billion this year, a marked increase from last year’s record numbers of 2.07 billion in Easter candy sales. (1)

It seems unlikely that our desire for sweets will recede anytime soon. In fact, the American sweet tooth has grown to epic proportions.

In 1822, the average person consumed 6.3 pounds of sugar a year. In 1999, the average person consumed 107.7 pounds of sugar in a year.

Dr. Guyenet puts these numbers in perspective: “In 1822, we ate the amount of added sugar in one 12 ounce can of soda every five days, while today we eat that much sugar every seven hours.”(2)

The mis-education about the dangers of sugar consumption is widespread. It is in the school systems, the home, and even the medical community. If we take the advice of the USDA and eat a grain-rich, low-fat diet, we are setting ourselves up for disease and obesity. (3)

Dr. Guyenet tells us that the dramatic rise in sugar consumption comes from “a single factor: the industrialization and commercialization of the American food system.”

Or, in other words, we are eating food made by large industries that are more interested in the dollar than in our health.

Sugar Is More Addictive Than Cocaine

Can't kick your sugar habit? You're definitely not alone… Today, Americans eat more than 100 pounds of sugar per year!

Not only does sugar alter gene expression and negatively affect several biochemical pathways - it is also one of the most addictive substances on the planet!

One 2007 study found that sugar is more addictive than cocaine. (4) The group of researchers conducting the study found that sugar surpasses what is called “cocaine reward” in most mammals, including rats and humans.

Although sugar does not contain opiates (as other addictive substances do, like heroin) it does stimulate the release of endogenous opiates. These are opiates that we make ourselves.

Opiates and their receptors have largely been attributed to what is known as “reward.” When the opiate receptor is filled over and over again, we feel a sense of pleasure and reward. No matter how harmful a food or substance may be to the body, the sensation of pleasure keeps us coming back for more, while at the same time altering brain chemistry. (5)

Like any addiction, whether to coffee or a relationship, change happens when we realize that we are greater than the sum of chemicals floating around our nervous tissue. This can be tough to swallow - especially when it comes to breaking habits and ending addiction.

3 Ways to Break the Sugar Addiction

In addition to determination and disciple, it is helpful to:

  1. Eat sour foods. The sour taste of some foods, like apple cider vinegar, will naturally curb your cravings for sugar.
  2. Eat fermented foods and probiotic beverages. Fermented foods are sour, easy to make, and affordable. Probiotic beverages also taste sour, and even a small dosage goes a long way. Both are full of beneficial bacteria, which drive out disease-causing bugs that increase our desire for sugar.
  3. Keep a bottle of stevia on hand. Stevia plays a trick on the tongue: while sweet, it is not sugar. If you want that sweet taste, use stevia first.

What to Remember Most About This Article:

Americans are eating more sugar than ever before, and the trend doesn't seem like it will stop anytime soon. This dramatic rise in sugar consumption is caused by the industrialization and commercialization of the American food system; we are eating food made by large manufacturers that are more interested in making money than they are in public health.

The bad news is that sugar is more addictive than cocaine. Sugar triggers a sense of pleasure and reward with each bite, which keeps us coming back for more - while altering our brain chemistry for the worst.

To break your sugar habit once and for all, here are 3 tips that you can use today:

  1. Eat sour foods to curb sugar cravings.
  2. Eat fermented foods and probiotic beverages to support digestion with beneficial bacteria.
  3. Use stevia anytime you're craving something sweet.

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  1. Easter Candy Sales Expected To Rise. Candy and Snack Today.
  2. S. Guyenet. By 2606, the US Diet will be 100 Percent Sugar. Whole Health Source. Feb 18 2012.
  3. Adele Hite. WAPF Dietary Guidelines Press Conference. National Press Club. Feb 14 2011.
  4. M Lenoir, et al. Intense Sweetness Surpasses Cocaine Reward. PLoS ONE. 2007; 2(8): e698.
  5. CC Johnson. Sucrose Analgesia During the First Week of Life in Neonates Younger Than 31 Weeks’ Postconceptional Age. Pediatrics. September 2002; 110 (3): 523 – 528.

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  • Juliana Benner

    Hi Donna,
    It has been several years since we've seen each jog your memory, tall blonde who took your BED courses in the very beginning years, colon hydrotherapist...I-ACT conventions...still look the same because I eat the BED way.....anyway, the reason I'm writing a comment to your sugar article is because I have been utilizing a new-to-market all natural, food based supplement that has transformed my life and the lives of all I have introduced it to! It basically cuts or even eliminates sugar/carb cravings!! Here's my website address for the supplement: what I'd really love to do is have you talk directly to the naturopath who introduced me to it (back in November, so I've been testing it now for over 5 months and it's amazing!!). Please call or email me to set this up as soon as possible- "Let food be thy medicine" is now a true possibility in this 24/7, in your face, junk food world! Another great tool for our "back to health" tool box!
    Juliana Benner 208-850-8075

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Information and statements regarding dietary supplements/products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Information on this website is provided for informational purposes only and is a result of years of practice and experience by the author. This information is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing medication or other treatment. Always speak with your physician or other healthcare professional before taking any medication or nutritional, herbal, or homeopathic supplement, or using any treatment for a health problem. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your healthcare provider promptly. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking professional advice because of something you have read on this website.

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