When I ask my kids what their favorite food is, the answer invariably is SUGAR!
Sugar is addicting. There is no denying that, yet we continue to feed the addiction without questioning it. I find that most people underestimate the amount of sugar they consume because it is hidden in just about every processed food.
Did you know the average American consumes over 100 pounds of sugar a year? That’s 31 teaspoons a day. It is a big deal compared to 200 years ago when we were consuming only 6 pounds each a year. (1) That’s a 1600% increase mostly due to sugars addictive power.
We have a naturally affinity towards sugar because it’s a sweet tasting fuel. But the compulsion goes deeper than that. Sugar increases the pleasure yielding opioids in the brain, like morphine and heroin do, making it very rewarding for us to eat. Sugar also surpasses cocaine in it’s addictive strength. According to the article “Intense Sweetness Surpasses Cocaine Reward,” the authors state, “The supranormal stimulation of these receptors by sugar-rich diets, such as those now widely available in modern societies, would generate a supranormal reward signal in the brain, with the potential to override self-control mechanisms and thus to lead to addiction.” (2)
If sugar is more addictive than cocaine, why are we feeding it to our kids?
Even though it may be socially acceptable to give our kids a little sugar, you can’t ignore the destructive power sugar has on our health. Sugar is a nutrient depleting, hormone disrupting, and immune suppressing toxin to say the least.
When we eat sugar it has to go through many different biochemical reactions to get turned into fuel. These biochemical reactions require nutrients to work properly. Refined sugar has little to no nutrients, so we rob our bodies of our own nutrient stores to metabolized this non-beneficial carbohydrate. For instance, to metabolized one molecule of glucose it requires at least 28 molecules of magnesium (3) Magnesium is used in over 300 biochemical reactions in our body. Over consumption of refined sugars and flours rapidly depletes our magnesium stores and also causes our bodies to excrete calcium. These mineral imbalances can lead to a variety of symptoms, such as anxiety and muscle cramps to more painful conditions like kidney stones or gallstones. (4)
Overconsumption of refined sugars and flours also send us on a blood sugar rollercoaster ride leading to insulin resistance and diabetes. More then 29 million Americans have diabetes and up to 86 million have pre-diabetes, a condition of elevated blood glucose that usually leads to type 2 diabetes. That’s 1/3 of the population with blood sugar problems. (5)
Every time we consume refined carbs in the form of sugars, flours, sweets and soft drinks we spike our blood sugars and cause our pancreas to over produce insulin. This sudden shock of heavy sugar intake takes our bodies out of homeostasis and sends our regulatory functions into a panic to rebalance our systems. The hormonal surges that occur to bring us back into homeostasis are taxing to our endocrine system and can lead to other hormone imbalances, like PMS or thyroid issues.
Not only are blood sugar swings disruptive to our hormones, they also affect our brain chemistry and our mood. Research has shown that sugar consumption strongly correlates with aggressive and restless behaviors in young children.(6) This is due to reactive hypoglycemia, where the over production of insulin causes the blood sugars to crash below normal range. When our blood sugar crashes below normal our body releases cortisol and this can exacerbate aggressive behavior and lead to hyperactivity, anxiety and attention difficulties. (7)
Sugar also weakens our immune systems and leads to acute and chronic disease. It only takes 1 tsp of sugar to suppress our immune system for up to 5 hours. (8) If the average American is consuming up to 31 teaspoons of sugar per day it’s no wonder we catch every bug that we come into contact with.
If you want to keep your kids healthy and happy, STOP feeding them sugar everyday. It’s time to get real about food and what is happening with our kids. Candy, cookies and cakes are not special. Our kids are special. They deserve the best shot at life they can get.
Continue this conversation in the comments. Let me know how your family has benefited from eliminating sugar. What challenges do you still face when trying to limit sugar consumption?