Sugar-related illnesses are skyrocketing (diabetes, heart disease and dementia among them). Yet Americans are shoveling in more sweet stuff than ever. We know it’s bad; we just can’t stop. Science shows it’s not simply a matter of self-control; sugar, it turns out might be as addictive as hard drugs.
You’d never willingly eat poison, right? Okay, so maybe you snack on not-so healthy treats every so often or scarf down non-nutritious junk at happy hour. Sugar can act like poison in high doses and the amount in our diets has gone beyond toxic. The typical American now swallows the equivalent of 22 sugar cubes every 24 hours. This means the average women eats 70 pounds nearly half her weight of straight sugar every year.
Both the American Heart Association and the World Health Organization recently released guidelines urging to stay under six teaspoons (six sugar cubes) of added sugar per day.
We are not just talking about cavities as result of eating too much sugar. When eaten in such vast quantities, sugar can wreak havoc on the body. Over time, that havoc can lead to diabetes and obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, and breast, endometrial and colon cancers. One new study found that normal-weight people who loaded up on sugar doubled their risk of dying from heart disease. Other research pinpoints excess sugar as a major cause of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which can lead to liver failure.
Our earliest ancestor likely downed about 20 teaspoons of sugar per year. The body made its own glucose – an ingredient in sugar and the “energy of life” that powers your every cell – by breaking down healthy fats, proteins, and complex carbs. When people came across something sweet, their brains rejoiced, since sweet meant nutritious berries or fruits. Problem is, research suggests that your brain still gets psyched by sweets. Binging on them in the modern form of added sugar can cause a surge of dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter, in your brain’s reward center. Repeated spikes can desensitize that center, which could release less and less dopamine, leaving your body needing more and more sugar to score a rush. These are the same brain patterns you see during drug addiction.
Be aware of what may be luring in these foods:
Barbecue sauce: 2 tablespoons = 3.75 teaspoons of sugar
Ketchup: 2 tablespoons = 2.25 teaspoons of sugar
Fruit-flavored yogurt: 6 ounces = 7.75 teaspoons of sugar
Pasta sauce: ½ cup = 3 teaspoons of sugar
Breakfast bar: 1 bar = 6.25 teaspoons of sugar.