How Bad is Sugar Really?


The form of sugar our body runs on is glucose.  Glucose does not ever come directly from our diet.  Our body makes all of the glucose it uses from more complex sugars found in whole foods.

picture by Moyan Brenn on Flickr
picture by Moyan Brenn on Flickr

Manufactured and processed foods supply added sugars.  75% of all packaged products in the U.S. contain hidden sugar.  Hidden means it can not be detected on a nutrition label.  Adding sugars making everything taste stronger, faster, sweeter which leads to de-sensitized pallets that need everything to taste stronger, faster, sweeter!

I call this hyperpallatable.  A lot of people have to have foods that are hyper-pallatable or super-pallatable.

Doing a little more research on the dangers of sugar was extremely eye opening!

What I Discovered.  What You Can Learn…

  1. Mice prefer sugar to cocaine?
  2. Ending the debate; Why high fructose corn syrup really is bad for you.
  3. Many Americans have an underperforming thyroid and don’t know it.
  4. Sugar is worse for your heart than salt.
  5. Cancer thrives on processed sugar.
  6. Common hidden sources of sugar.
  7. 8 healthy sugar substitutes you can use in moderation.


Mice Prefer Sugar to Cocaine?

Recently James DiNicolantonio, a cardiovascular reserach scientists, was interviewed on Here and Now WBUR by Robin Young,  where he made the following astonishing facts:

  • “75% of all packaged products in the United States contain hidden sugar”
  • The process of boiling down sugar cane to create sugar crystals creates a very potent substance and is the same process that is used to create heroin from poppy seeds and cocaine from coca leaves.
  • Rats switch to sugar even after they are hooked on cocaine.
  • Our ancestors evolved to receive a neurochemical reward for eating sugar because it’s purpose is to lay down fat.
  • Sugar spikes blood pressure more than salt!
  • Consuming 1 soda a day increases your risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by 30% (2 to 3 sodas per day triples your risk)
  • How the process of sugar addiction works
  • How you can still have sugar.

This is a must listen! 


I have heard people say, as if they are educated, high fructose corn syrup is just corn.  It’s all natuel.  There are even commercials on TV that talk about how healthy it is.  The fact is high fructose corn syrup is in everything because it is subsidized and dirt cheap.  It is cheaper to eat a candy bar or a 99 cent frosty than it is to an apple.


Don’t Believe the Spin.  High Fructose Corn Syrup is Bad for You.

Kris Gunners the Founder of Authority Nutrition wrote, 10 Disturbing Reasons Why Sugar is Bad For You in which he described the dangers of hidden added sugars.  That includes high fructose corn syrup:

Added sugar is the single worst ingredient in the modern diet.

It can have harmful effects on metabolism and contribute to all sorts of diseases….

Added Sugar Contains No Essential Nutrients and is Bad For Your Teeth

You’ve probably heard this a million times before… but it’s worth repeating.

Added sugars (like sucrose and high fructose corn syrup) contain a whole bunch of calories with NO essential nutrients.

For this reason, they are called “empty” calories.

There are no proteins, essential fats, vitamins or minerals in sugar… just pure energy.

When people eat up to 10-20% of calories as sugar (or more), this can become amajor problem and contribute to nutrient deficiencies…

The thing with fructose is that it can only be metabolized by the liver in any significant amounts.

…If we eat a little bit (such as from fruit) or we just finished an exercise session. The fructose will be turned into glycogen and stored in the liver until we need it.

However, if the liver is full of glycogen (much more common), eating a lot of fructose overloads the liver, forcing it to turn the fructose into fat.

When repeatedly eating large amounts of sugar, this process can lead to fatty liver and all sorts of serious problems (5).


Many Americans have an Under Active Thyroid and Don’t Know It

After doing a little more research on sugar, I discovered an article by Cherie Clabom at Juice Lady Cherie entitled, Sugar & Thyroid Blues | Do you have impaired thyroid function?.  In I learned that 27 million Americans have thyroid dsyfunction and half go undiagnosed!  In the article she lists the symptoms of low thyroid (I have a lot of them) and she talks about the role sugar plays.

Americans are affected by some form of thyroid disorder.

Symptoms of Low Thyroid

•           Fatigue

•           Weight Gain

•           Depression

•           Constipation

•           Hair falls out easily

•           Dry skin

•           Poor circulation and numbness in hand and feet

•           Morning headaches that wear off as day progresses

If you have many of these symptoms, you may want to get a thyroid test.  But keep in mind, that just suboptimal function may not show up.

If you have impaired thyroid function, you must quit sugar in short order.  Sugar causes leaky gut, which is often cited as a precursor to autoimmune disease. Sugar inflames and mucks up your entire endocrine system, which includes the thyroid and adrenal glands. Sugar causes insulin spikes, which destroy the thyroid gland and the adrenals. In addition to the damage caused by insulin, a compromised thyroid gland will slow the removal of insulin from the bloodstream.



Sugar and Cancer

Scientists are now using sugar to find tumors because tumors thrive on sugar.  The hero of, Drew Conale, recently published, MRI Shows Cancer Cells Thrive on Processed Sugars,  Among other things the article states:

CANCER THRIVES ON SUGAR. Plain and simple.

It has been shown that cancer cells have 15 times the sugar receptors that normal, healthy cells have! This means they LOVE sugar. They devour sugar. And when you are eating too much sugar (processed, white, brown, artificial, corn syrup, cane sugar), you may literally be feeding and fueling cancer cells.


Common Hidden Sources of Sugar

Sugar is everywhere.  70% of packaged food in the United States contains hidden sugar.  That does not even include the sugar that is not hidden and clearly labeled.  So exactly where is all this sugar hiding.

Ketchup and Savory Sauces –  Pouring ketchup over french fries or having to always dip your chicken into barbecue sauce is a sugar bomb.

Pasta Sauce – This is the whole thing this whole article is trying to say.  Normal “healthy” things that ladies in Italy make…corporations take them and add sugar to make them stronger, faster, sweeter.  Not necessary!  Yes a lot of pasta sauce has added sugar.  Added sugar if you don’t know by now is really really really bad.

Granola Bars – Candy bars in disguise.

Yogurt – So sad.  Yogurt is actually great for digestion, but the flavored kind either with the fruit on the bottom or blended is just, well sad.  It’s sad how food corporations take a perfectly good food on it’s own and ruin it.  Now most people I know don’t like plain yogurt even though I find it is delicious.  Hyper-pallatiblity strikes again.!  Don’t even get me started on GoGurt!  

Instant Oatmeal – I love oatmeal, but buy the non-instant kind in the big cylinder can then just put blueberries on top.  You can buy a big bag of frozen blueberries in the freezer section.  The instant kind, especially the flavored kind is packed with sugar.

Salad Dressing – Turns that salad into a sugar bomb.

Breakfast Cereals – Even the good ones.  Raisin Bran is a big one.

Energy Drinks – Not just energy drinks.  Gatorade is now a huge stealth junk food that kids consume while parents think they are “being like mike.”

Packaged Fruits – How do you spell “deception?”  L-i-g-h-t S-y-r-u-p.  Can you say 39 grams of sugar in light syrup mandarin oranges?

Cole Slaw – This was a surprise to me.  This is not necessarily the healthy side at the restaurant that you think it is.  Remember sugar is worse for you than salt.  That doesn’t mean switch to french fries.  White starches are pretty much unsweet sugar.

Photo by Pen Waggener on flickr

Iced Tea – As much sugar as Colas.  Go half sweet and half unsweet if you can’t stomach pure unsweet.  Try unsweet tea for just one day a week.  You will get used to it and even enjoy it.

Coffee and Coffee Drinks – Gotta have your iced mocha no whip frappe.  Many people don’t know it, but they are less addicted to the caffeine and more to the sugar.  You are already sweet enough right?  Don’t do it!

Before you Drive Off a Cliff…8 Safer Sugar Substitutes In Moderation.

If you have kids, get them to say “Safer Sugar Substitutes” 8 times really fast.

I love Sara at Juicing for health.  She is a certified nutritionists and just published, 8 Safer Sugar Substitutes in Moderation.  What a great article.  I love these.  Stevia, Lemon, Coconut Sugar.  Be sure to check out Sara’s post and incorporate these ingredients in your shopping list!

I’ll also add that bananas are a super great way to curb a sugar craving (i.e. addiction!).  It has soluble fiber and insoluble fiber to help you feel full, is packed with nutrients, and of course packs a sweet delicious punch.


Final Note:

When someone decides to tackle sugar addiction, just like an addiction to any drug, they will meet with massive resistance.  This is normal!  Alarm bells of resistance go off.  The brain will produce panic signals.  Everything will feel off.  “This is terrible!  This tastes nasty.  How can I eat this stuff?  I can’t ever have a cinammon roll again?  I want orange juice!  You mean orange juice isn’t healthy?”

It may take a little time, but pallets do adjust back down once a healthy diet is resumed.  The panic is nothing but that, panic against change.  The alarm bells are the false alarms of our comfort zone rearing it’s ugly head and letting us know we are outside of it.  You can do it!

A word to parents.  I am pretty thankful that I have decent eating habits now.  Why?  I can’t take any of the credit.  It was my dad.  He was pretty strict.  I hated it at the time when all the other kids had Capri-Suns and chips and yogurt and white bread with the crusts cut off I had a peanut butter sandwich on the bread so whole wheat it might as well have been tree bark.  Then an apple cut into slices and that was it.  He did me a great favor because my eating habits and pallet were established at an early age.  It’s not too late to switch.  Dr. Phil says it will get worse before it gets better but once your children understand you are serious they may secretly gain respect for the love you have for their healthy.

Featured photo by Matthew Kang on flickr.