Sugar – The Most Addictive Drug of All
Some people would argue that sugar is not actually a drug, as it fulfills the body’s need for carbohydrates. Without glucose (a simple sugar), the brain could not function.
Although this is true, the body is designed to produce glucose from complex carbohydrates found in grains and vegetables. There is mounting evidence to show that sugar is not only highly addictive, but also a causative factor in nearly every disease of the modern age, from high blood pressure and heart disease to obesity, diabetes and liver disease.
Dr. Robert Lustig, Professor of Paediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology at the University of California, San Francisco, is one of the world pioneers in studying sugar addiction. His research shows that sugar is addictive because the sweet taste triggers a dopamine response in the pleasure centre of our brains. Overtime, more and more sugar is necessary to produce this response, which leads to a gradual escalation in sugar consumption and less dopamine being released in response to other pleasurable activities.
This is exactly the same mechanism that makes dangerous drugs such as heroin addictive.
What this translates to is that just about everyone easily get addicted to sugar in all forms (usually at a very young age) and find themselves unable to resist eating that sweet treat, and unable to function after lunch without a biscuit or some chocolate.
Problems with high sugar consumption
Over time the excessive intake of refined sugars leads not only to less pleasure, but also a whole host of preventable diseases that we associate with modern life. Dr Lustig’s (and many others’) research linked the following diseases with sugar as a causative factor:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Cirrhosis of the liver
- Tooth decay
This list is overwhelming! Can all of these diseases really be caused by sugar? Although there is never one single cause of a disease, the evidence is stacking up that sugar is a massive contributing factor. The intake of sugar has increased over the last 200 years from only 200g per year in the average American to nearly 34 kg of sugar per year.
What to do?
The most important thing is to drastically reduce the consumption of sugar, especially in the form of high fructose corn syrup (which is found in nearly all processed foods). There is no magic way to do this – it requires oodles of will power and determination. However, there ARE a number of natural herbs that will help you on your journey:
The wonderful herb Stevia (Stevia rebaundia) is 1000 times sweeter than sugar but has no sugar or calories whatsoever. Although the taste is quite different from sugar, it can be used to sweeten food and beverages without adding any calories or the deleterious health effects of sugar. Not only that, Stevia has also been shown in clinical trials to significantly lower both blood sugar and blood pressure in both rats and humans.
The delicious and much-loved spice Cinnamon has been shown to regulate the metabolism of sugars, and reduce the sugar spike that happens after a meal.
The Ayurvedic herb Gymnema (Gymnema sylvestre) has recently become popular as a support for diabetic patients as it has been shown to reduce appetite, improve the ability of the pancreas to release insulin and to regulate sugar metabolism.
Myrrh, perhaps best known for its widespread use in incense, is also an excellent herb to use in cases of sugar overload. It has been used to increase the uptake and use of sugar by cells (thereby dropping blood sugar) for centuries in the Middle East.
References & Further Reading[i] Beasley, Joseph D, MD, and Jerry J Swift, MA, The Kellogg Report, 1989, The Institute of Health Policy and Practice, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY, 144-145 [ii] Taylor, Leslie. 2005. The Healing Power of Rainforest Herb: A guide to understanding and using herbal medicines. New York: Square One Publishers. Pp424 -428. [iii] Wood, Matthew. 2008. The Earthwise Herbal: A complete guide to old world medicinal plants.Berkeley: North Atlantic Books. p 194. [iv] Mills, S and Bone, K. 2005. The Essential Guide to Herbal Safety. Missouri: Elsevier. [v] Wood, Matthew. 2008. The Earthwise Herbal: A
Sally Fallon. 1999. Nourishing Traditions. Washington: New Trends Publishing. Pp 21-24.
Clare Pain. “Toxic Sugar”, COSMOS: The Science of Everything, October 2012. Pp 43-49. (http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/issue/issue-47-toxic-sugar/)
Dr Mercola. March 2012. “The Most Unhappy Of Pleasures: This is your brain on sugar” available online at: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/03/10/the-most-unhappy-of-pleasures-this-is-your-brain-on-sugar.aspx accessed on Nov 2013.
Mills, S and Bone, K. 2005. The Essential Guide to Herbal Safety. Missouri: Elsevier.
Wood, Matthew.2008. The Earthwise Herbal: A complete guide to Old World medicinal plants. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books.
Taylor, Leslie. 2005. The Healing Power of Rainforest Herb: A guide to understanding and using herbal medicines. New York: Square One Publishers.