Sugar: 3 Little White Lies You Tell Yourself

When it comes to sugar, it’s hard to know what to believe.

In fact, because sugar is added to so many common convenience foods, many parents and educators downplay the effects that sugar has on the body.

A high-sugar diet changes the inner ecosystem of the gut.

Who really wants to imagine that something so ubiquitous could be so detrimental to your—or your child’s—mental and physical health?

Even though mountains of research tell us to check our sweet tooth, most of us go on eating sweets and defending sugar.

Unfortunately, sugar isn’t harmless. And the lies that you tell yourself about sugar can radically impact your health and your family’s health. Here’s why…

Myth #1: Sugar Doesn’t Make You Fat

Sugar may be delicious, but it isn’t so innocent. Sugar can contribute to weight gain, tooth decay, and an uncontrollable sweet tooth.

Obesity. It is no longer about calories. Or fat. Or sugar. Or even genetics. As it turns out, the latest research on obesity investigates something that science overlooked and underestimated for decades—your inner ecosystem.

In industrialized countries—like the United States—obesity is on the rise. It is associated with heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and even some forms of cancer.

As it turns out, scientists are finding a relationship between bacteria and yeast in the gut and obesity. (1)

Changes in your inner ecosystem can stimulate weight gain. Studies show that obesity is associated with:

  • Gut bacteria that are able to harvest more energy from food. (2)
  • Decreased diversity—or less variety of bacteria and yeast. (3)
  • Changes in the mucosal immune system, which is found in the lining of the gut wall. (4)

Researchers have determined that a high-sugar diet changes the inner ecosystem of the gut. (5) Sugar also feeds intestinal and systemic yeast overgrowth. This means that sugar can contribute to leaky gut and inflammation.

In a nutshell: Sugar does make it easier for you to carry extra weight—but the mechanism is far more complex than calories. Sugar damages your inner ecosystem and can throw your immune system out of balance.

Myth #2: Sugar Doesn’t Really Cause Cavities

Sugary foods have a tendency to replace nutrient-dense foods that keep the arch of the palate wide, teeth evenly spaced and free from cavities. These nutrient-dense foods contain fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, and K, as well as important minerals. While there is more to tooth decay than sugar, the work of Dr. Weston A. Price shows us the terrifying link between modern, sweet foods and tooth decay. (6)

During the early 20th Century, Dr. Price traveled around the world and looked for communities of people untouched by modern, sweet Western foods. According to his research, tooth decay and crowded teeth were the result of poor diet. Across the globe, diets that supported strong, straight teeth all had something in common. They all contained foods that were rich in fat-soluble vitamins­—foods like butter, eggs, organ meats, shellfish, and fish roe.

Price’s work is monumental because it suggests that a sugar-rich diet does far more than rot the teeth. Within a few generations, modern, processed sweet stuff and nutritional deficiencies can compress and weaken the bone structure of the entire body. This compression is most evident in the palate and in the narrowing of the hips. Besides crowded teeth, signs of a narrow palate (and a narrow pelvis) include sleep apnea, chronic back pain, and, in women, difficult labor and delivery.

Instead of sugar, choose fermented foods, which have even been found to increase levels of certain fat-soluble vitamins, like vitamin D. (7)

Myth #3: Sugar Isn’t Addictive

Think sugar isn’t addictive? Think again. Research shows that sugar can be just as addictive as morphine, nicotine, or cocaine.

In 2002, researchers at Princeton University found evidence of sugar addiction. (8) In their study, rats were fed a diet high in sugar. They later saw behavioral and neurochemical signs of both addiction and withdrawal.

In 2007, another study pointed out that sugar is more addictive than cocaine. (9) The group of researchers conducting the study concluded that sugar surpasses what is called “cocaine reward” in most mammals, including rats and humans.

If you are interested in more data on human addiction to sugar, another study published this month in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a dense, sugary meal directly stimulates areas of the brain that are associated with cravings, reward, and addiction. (10) Furthermore, one review published in 2010 noted that drug addicts with an opiate dependency were more likely to consume a diet high in sugar. (11)

Addiction is marked by dependency with side effects.

In other words, while the need for a substance or activity increases with each use, your ability to pull away decreases. Whether the substance is cocaine or the activity is gambling, satisfying an addiction releases “reward” neurochemicals and lights up areas in the brain that are associated with addiction.

The first step to curbing your sugar craving is to include fermented foods in the diet, which are naturally sour. Second, try Stevia—a natural, sugar-free sweetener that will satisfy the sweet receptors on your tongue.

What To Remember Most About This Article:

Sugar has become a staple of the Western diet. The unfortunate truth is that excess sugar in processed foods can affect your health and your family’s health for the worse.

Consider these 3 common myths about sugar in the diet:

1. Sugar doesn’t make you fat.On the contrary, sugar can affect the inner ecosystem and cause weight gain. Sugar can also feed systemic yeast overgrowth to trigger digestive issues like leaky gut and inflammation.

2. Sugar doesn’t really cause cavities. When sugar replaces nutrient-dense foods in the diet, it can lead to tooth decay and crowded teeth. Choosing fermented foods over sugar can boost levels of fat-soluble vitamins to support dental and bone health.

3. Sugar isn’t addictive. Research has proven that sugar is just as addictive as nicotine or cocaine. Using a naturally sugar-free sweetener like Stevia instead can satisfy sweet cravings without contributing to sugar addiction.

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  1. Ley, R. E., Turnbaugh, P. J., Klein, S., & Gordon, J. I. (2006). Microbial ecology: human gut microbes associated with obesity. Nature, 444(7122), 1022-1023.
  2. Turnbaugh, P. J., Ley, R. E., Mahowald, M. A., Magrini, V., Mardis, E. R., & Gordon, J. I. (2006). An obesity-associated gut microbiome with increased capacity for energy harvest. Nature, 444(7122), 1027-131.
  3. Turnbaugh, P. J., Bäckhed, F., Fulton, L., & Gordon, J. I. (2008). Diet-induced obesity is linked to marked but reversible alterations in the mouse distal gut microbiome. Cell host & microbe, 3(4), 213-223.
  4. Upadhyay, V., Poroyko, V., Kim, T. J., Devkota, S., Fu, S., Liu, D., … & Fu, Y. X. (2012). Lymphotoxin regulates commensal responses to enable diet-induced obesity. Nature immunology.
  5. Turnbaugh, P. J., Ridaura, V. K., Faith, J. J., Rey, F. E., Knight, R., & Gordon, J. I. (2009). The effect of diet on the human gut microbiome: a metagenomic analysis in humanized gnotobiotic mice. Science translational medicine, 1(6), 6ra14.
  6. Price, W. A. (1939). Nutrition and physical degeneration; a comparison of primitive and modern diets and their effects. Paul B. Hoeber. Inc., New York.
  7. Jones, M. L., Martoni, C. J., & Prakash, S. (2013). Oral supplementation with probiotic L. reuteri NCIMB 30242 increases mean circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D: a post-hoc analysis of a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
  8. Colantuoni, C., Rada, P., McCarthy, J., Patten, C., Avena, N. M., Chadeayne, A., & Hoebel, B. G. (2002). Evidence that intermittent, excessive sugar intake causes endogenous opioid dependence. Obesity Research, 10(6), 478-488.
  9. Lenoir, M., Serre, F., Cantin, L., & Ahmed, S. H. (2007). Intense sweetness surpasses cocaine reward. PloS one, 2(8), e698.
  10. Lennerz, B. S., Alsop, D. C., Holsen, L. M., Stern, E., Rojas, R., Ebbeling, C. B., … & Ludwig, D. S. (2013). Effects of dietary glycemic index on brain regions related to reward and craving in men. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
  11. Mysels, D. J., & Sullivan, M. A. (2010). The relationship between opioid and sugar intake: Review of evidence and clinical applications. Journal of Opioid Management, 6(6), 445.
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