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Can You Kick the Sugar Habit?

© Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman ND, MSW

Do you find yourself helpless at the thought of a Dove Bar? Do Mrs. Fields' cookies drive you wild with desire? If so, you're not alone. Few of of have our sugar addictions licked. Our patients ask us all the time for help in kicking their sugar habits. Whether you are a diehard supporter of Sugar Blues and feel that all sugar is downright poisonous, or whether you're a committed cookie monster who's not the least bit interested in reducing your sugar intake, this article will hopefully provide you with some interesting information.

Everybody does it
What's the big deal about a candy bar now and then? The problem is that many of us can't stop with an occasional sugary treat. In the times of the American colonists, sugar really wasn't any big thing. The average amount of sugar consumed per person per year was four pounds. If that were still the case, we wouldn't be writing this article. Take a guess at how much sugar each American consumes, on an average, in l990. Believe it or not, estimates exceed l30 pounds. Now if you think about it, that's about a third of a pound of sugar a day...and a lot more for those folks who are making up for the sugar teetotalers! Approximately l8% of the total caloric intake of the average American comes from sugar. The highest source of sugar in the diet is pop. One l2-oz. bottle of pop, such as Coca Cola or Sprite, contains approx- imately nine tablespoons of sugar. Can you imagine gorging yourself on that much sugar at one sitting? According to The Center for Science in the Public Interest, an extremely nutritionally-conscious educational and political organization based in Washington, D.C., merely reducing the sugar in soft drinks by one-tenth would cut annual sucrose consumption by 480 million pounds.

The Not-So-Sweet Facts About Sugar
Sugar comes in a number of different forms. such as sucrose (white sugar), fructose (fruit sugar), lactose (milk sugar), or dextrose (corn sugar). The body eventually breaks down all of these substances into glucose. Natural fruit sweeteners, maple syrup, honey, barley malt syrup, brown sugar, raw sugar, etc., may be less refined, but, in excess, the overall effect is pretty much the same.

Too much sugar, can create, or exacerbate, a number of health problems.

l) Obesity Overindulging in sugar can result in excess, often permanent, weight gain, which carries with it an increaed risk for various chronic degenerative diseases.

2) Blood sugar imbalances - Too much sugar can result either in hypoglycemia or diabetes. You don't need a fancy test, most of the time, to tell you whether hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) is a problem for you. Just ask yourself how you feel after not having eaten for four or five hours and after you've eaten sugar or drunk alcohol. People with hypoglycemic tendencies will complain of feeling weak, shaky, confused, and irritable if they miss a meal and are the first ones to race to the potluck dinner tables, especially if dinner is late! They usually crash after sugar, sometimes after an initial euphoria. This is because the sugar in their food enters the bloodstream and then is quickly transferred into the cells to be metabolized, depriving the brain of blood sugar, at which time the person's energy abruptly plunges. Diabetes (high blood sugar) is a much more serious illness in which the sugar remains in the bloodstream and there is insufficient insulin to carry the sugar into the cells. Both of these conditions can be triggered by sugar consumption and a no to low sugar diet is recommended in both cases.

3) Cavities - It is no mystery that sugar causes dental decay. The New York Times reported in l975 that 44% of all Scots over the age of l6 had lost all of their teeth and that only 2% of the Scottish population surveyed were considered "dentally fit". The report concluded that Scotland had one of the highest sugar consumption rates in the world; l20 pounds per person annually. Another study at Tufts University School of Dentistry reported that the diet of a group of indigenous Brazilians consisted of two staples-potatoes and fish-but no sugar. Not one permanent molar cavity was found in anyone under 20. By l962 this same group of people was consuming about one pound of sugar per week per person and the same age group was found to have 50% of their molars decayed. These statistics speak for themselves.

4) Heart disease - High sugar intake has been correlated with elevated triglycerides (blood fat), LDL's (low-density lipoproteins which are the type of cholesterol which predisposes to a greater risk of heart disease), and high blood pressure.

5) Arthritis - High sugar consumption has been linked with increased uric acid levels in the blood, which can cause gouty arthritis.

6) Hyperactivity - As any schoolteacher will attest, after having spent November lst (the day after Halloween) in the classroom, sugar can sometimes have a drastic effect on behavior. The same may be true in adults.

7) Immunosuppression -Sugar has been found by some researchers to decrease the ability of the white blood cells (neutrophils) to digest harmful or toxic materials in the body through the natural process of phagocytosis. We often see patients who have developed upper respiratory or other acute illnesses after having overdosed on sugar, such as after the Christmas holidays.

8) Vitamin and mineral depletion - Sugar has been called an anti-nutrient. Particular vitamin and mineral stores, such as those of thiamine and chromium, can be used up more rapidly when a person is eating sweets in excess.
9) Empty calories - Many people (teenagers are the most notorious) stuff themselves with so much sugar that they don't have room for food which is actually healthy. This is why sugar is often referred to as containing "empty calories".

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About The Author
Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman, ND, DHANP, MSW is a licensed naturopathic physician board certified in homeopathic medicine. She graduated with a degree in ...more
 
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Disclaimer: The information provided on HealthWorld Online is for educational purposes only and IS NOT intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek professional medical advice from your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.