The following statement is true: Sugar is the most addictive and widely used drug in the United States. Yet we willingly eat it and give it to our children multiple times a day hidden in packaged foods and overtly as deserts and treats. Happy birthday! Let’s celebrate by eating and drinking this drug together.
This is not hyperbole. The average American consumes over 100 pounds of sugar each year, about 30 teaspoons a day. We are socialized to celebrate with sugar and associate it with feelings of happiness, love and success.
But sugar is a dangerous drug. Sugar consumption in humans increases dopamine levels in our brains like heroin and cocaine. Because of this dopamine release, sugar feels good and we crave our next “hit” almost immediately. It is highly addictive and the more we consume the more we need to feel good again, to feel happy and avoid a mild depression. We build tolerance and must consume more to release dopamine and feel this happiness again. If we don’t consume more sugar, we will have physical withdrawals.
Added sugar is a poison. If you haven’t heard of Robert Lustig, Google him. He is a professor at the University of California, San Francisco and bestselling author who has studied the toxic effects of sugar extensively. His lectures have been viewed over a hundred thousand times on YouTube and his books have nearly five stars on Amazon. Lustig argues that sugar fits the literal definition of a poison. It has zero nutritional value and contributes to serious health conditions and diseases, including cancer.
Kicking the sugar habit is extremely difficult with studies proving sugar is eight times more additive than cocaine. Unlike a cocaine addiction however, kicking the sugar habit is socially far more difficult with friends and family often discouraging your efforts. If you refuse a slice of cake at an office party, colleagues will scoff and roll their eyes. “I don’t eat added sugar” sounds pretentious and will yield more eye-rolling as if you are some “health nut.” Refusing to eat sugar in social settings is strangely offensive, a sugarcoated insult to the person offering the drug. Maybe it’s time to say it with confidence: “No thank you, I don’t eat or drink added sugar.”