The Silent Killer with a Sweet Smile
Most of us will never have considered ourselves addicts of any kind, yet we all exhibit and demonstrate very obvious tell-tale signs of an addict. We stand in line at Starbucks doing what I call, “begging for a fix”. We order a vanilla latte to start our day. Later, we crack open a bottle of Coke to enjoy during work. After dinner, we’ll have a little ice cream to curb that sweet tooth. With each choice, sugar quietly makes its way into your daily routines but can be in an addiction?
We all know and have heard or read about the dangers and fatal side effects of this terribly addictive substance that we all love and crave. Ironically, most of us believe that drug addictions are fixable and that any person with a drug addiction could always seek help and combat their issues if only they would stop making excuses. Yet, with sugar, most of us show little desire to stop the addiction.
Upon hearing these beliefs, I would often disagree and sometimes even laugh. I laughed not out of disrespect or because I did not understand their point of view. I laughed because it reminded me of the old saying, “People who live in glass houses should never throw stones.” To some degree, we are all addicts, and the only difference is our drug of choice. Some people are addicted to illicit or dangerous drugs while most of us are addicted to the most common and addictive drug of all– sugar.
In current society, I believe that we all are addicted to sugar; therefore, we are all technically addicts.
I strongly believe that sugar is one of the most dangerous and addictive drugs that exists in our present world. It is a sweet and silent killer that affects every single one of us because it is present in almost everything we eat or drink.
Some of the sugar-filled culprits are easy to recognize. Cookies, pop, ice cream, and candy all clearly have large amounts of sugar in them. However, sugars sometimes hide in places you wouldn’t expect. I made a list of foods, condiments, and drinks that have sugar, and it was astonishing how many products contained sugar. Just a few of them were:
- Store-bought pasta sauce (8 grams [g] of sugar, or 5 cubes of sugar)
- Protein bars (some have as much as 25g of sugar)
- Canned soup (20g of sugar)
- Cereal (30g of sugar per bowl on average)
- Salad dressings (over 6g of sugar)
- Low-fat yogurt (15-24g of sugar)
- Juices (21-34g of sugar)
- Frappuccinos (87g of sugar)
- Sushi (rice water has sugar)
- Peanut butter (15-21 g of sugar)
- BBQ sauce, ketchup, granola bars, store-bought sauces, lattes, specialty coffees, and the list goes on.
Research has found that many of Starbucks’ drinks have more sugar than a can of Coca-Cola. For example, a Venti (extra-large) White Chocolate Mocha with whipped cream has 73.8g or approximately 18 teaspoons of sugar. A Venti Chai Tea Latte has 52g of sugar, nearly 13 teaspoons, and some of us eat and drink these products every day!
These are just a few examples of the unbelievable amounts of sugar we are consuming every day which is causing both visible and non-visible problems in our lives. Sugar is responsible for almost 100% of the cases of tooth decay. It is also responsible for increased levels of weight gain and obesity in our society.
It has been proven and consistently documented that sugar causes weight gain.
The more sugar we consume, the worse it is for our waistline and overall health. Scientific studies have concluded that people have sugar-storing tendencies in their bodies and any excessive intake of sugar causes weight gain. Sugar is a carbohydrate, so it will eventually turn into fat in the body.
Sugar also affects insulin resistance and blood sugar levels, which in turn spikes hunger and causes you to crave more sugary and carbohydrate-enriched foods. Insulin resistance is commonly known as diabetes. This disease impairs the body’s ability to produce or respond to the hormone, insulin, resulting in the abnormal metabolism of carbohydrates and elevated levels of glucose in the blood and urine. Although the disease is sometimes hereditary, it can be self-induced.
Too much sugar intake can cause a spike in glucose levels in the blood which can be highly toxic to the body because it can cause complications in the disease. People with diabetes are at risk for long-term health problems that affect the eyes, kidneys, heart, brain, feet, and nerves.
Research has shown that when the liver is full, excess sugar converts into fatty acids then returns to the bloodstream where it is distributed throughout the body and is stored as fat. In addition to weight gain, excess calories from any type of food can also affect cognitive function.
Insulin is the hormone that not only controls blood sugar levels but also regulates and strengthens the synaptic connections between brain cells. This helps these connections to communicate with one another, thereby forming stronger memories. When insulin levels in the brain are lowered as the result of excess sugar consumption, cognition can be impaired.
The best way to prevent or delay these problems is to control your blood sugar by limiting or eliminating sugar (if possible) and taking good care of yourself. Sugar contains empty calories and, as we all know, excess calories from any type of food can cause weight gain.
Other examples of what our sugar addiction can cause include liver and heart problems.
Sugar is made up of glucose and fructose. Our body needs and produces these compounds but unfortunately, they have negative side effects if consumed in excess.
For example, fructose (the second most important component that sugar is made from) has been linked to several different diseases. Because it is metabolized by our liver, our bodies will not discriminate or object to large amounts of sugar. This is problematic because as it continues to convert fructose into fat, it can cause us to have fatty livers which may eventually lead to liver disease.
Another negative outcome that overconsumption of sugar can cause heart-related diseases. Often people believe the common misconception that unhealthy fat causes heart disease, but that is far from the truth. The truth is that high amounts of fructose in the body leads to a higher risk of heart diseases. These are just a few examples of what our bodies go through because of this addictive and damaging substance known as sugar.
Trying to prevent these issues can often seem overwhelming because it appears as though sugar is everywhere and in everything we consume and sugar is undoubtedly an important part of modern society. Sugar is the most powerful industry in the world, even bigger than the tobacco and pharmaceutical industries. Therefore, it is unlikely that we will find healthier alternatives to sugar in its current form.
Having said that, I believe the solution is in our hands. We have the power to decide what we consume and the awareness to stay away from what we shouldn’t consume. We have the intelligence, as well as information, to discover different forms of sweeteners, additives, or sugars that satisfy our sweet-tooths and taste buds without ruining our health.
I once read that researchers found that sugar has the same effects on the brain as cocaine does. This was a shocking moment for me, challenging my beliefs about rational thought and common sense. Is sugar really like cocaine in the brain? This was the catalyst of my thought process and got me to realize that we are all addicts, only our drug of choice is sugar.
So, I ask you this, the next time you stand in line at your favorite coffee shop for a latte, specialty drink, or Frappuccino, ask yourself: “Do you I really need it or do I want it?” And if you decide you want it, does that make you an unwilling addict thanks to sugar? Drink up!
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