ADDICTED TO SUGAR
Sugar seems like such a harmless substance – sure, too much of it is bad for you, but surely there’s nothing wrong with having the occasional cookie or candy bar, right? Well, according to the head of Amsterdam’s health service, wrong. Sugar, Paul van der Velpen says, is actually a drug. In an essay on a public health website (which is in Dutch, so Google Translate that!) van der Velpen claims that sugar is an addiction that is just as hard to give up as smoking. He urges the government to regulate sugar the same way it regulates alcohol and nicotine , discouraging usage and educating consumers about the dangers of sugar consumption.
But why is it so dangerous? Even if it is an addiction, what’s the worst that happens, constant sugar high? Actually, sugar interferes with the body’s appetite. It upsets the metabolism and confuses the part of your brain that tells you when you’re full. As van der Velpen points out, give a man some eggs, and he’ll stop eating when he’s full. Give that man some cookies, and he’ll likely continue eating to the point of pain. I’m sure everyone reading has experienced this phenomenon at some point – whether you remember gorging on Halloween candy as a child, or continuing to nibble on the M&Ms someone brought into the office even though you weren’t actually hungry. Eating sugar makes us crave more sugar – a vicious cycle that’s hard to break. The excess sugar we consume has other effects as well – including elevating your uric acid, raising your blood pressure, and potentially damaging your kidneys.
So what’s the solution? First, watch your sugar consumption, especially in processed foods. The food industry tends to cram a lot of unnecessary sugar into things like cereal, juice, and canned soup. Since many of us just look at the calories or fat content, we tend to skip over the sugar on the label. But 50% of Americans today consume one-half pound of sugar per day – they’re not eating it straight from the spoon! Its sneaking in through foods you don’t even think of as containing sugar. So check those labels! Second, if you do consume sugar, make sure that its in the form of fruits and vegetables – the combination of nutrients, starches, fiber, vitamins, and so on helps moderate the negative metabolic effects of sugar. Finally, consider writing your representatives – the FDA exists for a reason, to regulate food and drugs that Americans consume. So why aren’t they regulating sugar? Paul van der Velpen has a point when he says “sugar is the most dangerous drug of our time that can still be easily acquired.” Let’s change that.
Image Credit: Lauri Andler