The Case Against Sugar
Sugar makes up a large part of the standard North-American diet. Only recently have we begun to understand the impacts that the overconsumption of sugar is having on our brains and bodies, causing many to make comparisons between sugar and the chemical effects of addictive drugs, alcohol and tobacco. In some cases, a more healthy holistic diet plan should be considered.
Sugar consumption on the rise
What was once a luxury item, sugar has become an inexpensive and prominent part of today’s average diet. Annual per capita sugar consumption is at the highest it has ever been. Sugar is a blanket term used to describe a class of molecules called carbohydrates, which includes: glucose, fructose, sucrose, maltose, lactose, dextrose, starch, high fructose corn syrup, honey and raw sugar. Some form of sugar is found in almost all of the packaged and processed foods that we eat. The purpose of refined sugar, like sucrose, is to add sweet flavor to foods; it is devoid of any nutritional content.
The effects of sugar on the brain and body
The overconsumption of sugar impacts the brain and body in many negative ways. Sugar prevents blood sugar levels from remaining stable, leading to hypertension. It causes an overproduction of insulin, which can increase a person’s chance of developing diabetes. It dangerously interferes with the appropriate release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter related to reward and pleasure.
Sugar consumption is also associated with weight gain. It causes an increase in the production of uric acid, which can lead to hypertension and high blood pressure. Sugar also changes the way that your brain thinks about consumption. Leptin, a hormone that regulates metabolism and appetite, is not able to do its job, causing individuals to overeat or binge. Eating large amounts of sugar increases fat production, which in turn places an incredible amount of stress on the liver. This can result in the development of fatty liver disease. High blood sugar levels are also linked to cognitive impairment.
Sugar consumption is also connected to a host of behavioral and mental disorders. High sugar intake can amplify the symptoms associated with:
- Learning disabilities
Although a somewhat controversial stance, evidence is building to suggest that sugar has the potential to become addictive. Increased sugar intake raises the production of dopamine, and this activation of the body’s reward system is similar to that of alcohol use, tobacco use, drug use, and sex. Just as nicotine, heroin and cocaine send dopamine into overdrive, so too does sugar, although not to the same violent degree. Over time, the body begins to crave the feelings associated with sugar consumption, fuelling an individual to eat more. The symptoms of withdrawal are also similar to that of drug and alcohol withdrawal.
These symptoms include:
- Mood swings or irritability
- Muscle aches and pains
Removing sugar in favor of a holistic diet
Making the switch to a healthy holistic diet can work to alleviate all of the problems associated with the overconsumption of sugar. While it may seem impossible for some, given the demands of a busy life and the availability of processed foods, a holistic diet greatly improves cognitive functioning and physical health. Brain chemicals become properly regulated and the mind and body are able to operate optimally.
Not all sugar is removed when a holistic diet is adopted. Natural sugar can be consumed as part of a healthy diet. The naturally occurring sugar found in fruits is different than the sugar found in processed foods. Sugar in the form of natural fructose can provide the body with energy, provided it is not over consumed. Fruit sugar contains fibre, which helps the body to regulate appetite. It is only when sugar is processed that the fiber is stripped from it, eliminating this benefit.
Eradicating sugar may seem impossible for some, but an individual can read labels, check the sugar content of packaged foods and remain aware about what goes into their body. The benefits of a sugar-restrictive diet far outweigh the efforts it takes to remain diligent.
When considering a healthier lifestyle and want to know more about cutting sugar and transitioning to a holistic diet plan and lifestyle, contact Rights of Passage Wilderness at (800)794-0980.