Sugar Shock

In her new book, SugarDetoxMe, an environmentalist offers delicious recipes and a sound sugar detox plan

By Summer Rayne Oakes

Reprinted with permission from SUGARDETOXME © 2017 by Summer Rayne Oakes, Sterling Epicure, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. Photography by Joey L.



Have you ever wondered why sugar has become increasingly prominent in virtually every packaged or prepared food we eat? Sugar, by no fault of its own, was designed to not only taste good but also reward our biochemical pathways, releasing neurotransmitters like beta-endorphin and dopamine. Because of that, sugar can override self-control mechanisms and prompt you to eat more of it.

Food executives looking to get customers hooked would quickly realize that they could do so legally with a generous dose of sugar. Michael Moss, the author of Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, writes, “the optimum amount of sugar in a product became known as the ‘bliss point,’” and food inventors are obsessed with finding the exact amount that keeps us coming back for more. He reports that some of the largest food companies have been employing the use of brain scans to understand how we neurologically respond to sugar (it’s not unlike how our brains would respond to cocaine, another highly addictive and harmful substance).

As a matter of fact—at least in rat studies—sugar is far more addictive than cocaine. A 2007 report demonstrated that when given the option of water sweetened with saccharin or intravenous cocaine, 94 percent of rats preferred the sweet taste of saccharin. Increasing the doses of cocaine didn’t even override the preference for sugar in the rats.

Some scientists struggle with whether to consider sugar addictive, but more compelling evidence is emerging to show addictive behaviors in many of us. As a result, we’re starting to see the emergence of the first sugar addiction programs. Not surprisingly, any substance that causes us to compulsively want it is compelling to big business. According to a recent report from BCC Research, the global market share for sugar and sweeteners in 2012 was $77.5 billion and is projected to grow to around $97 billion by 2017.

Refined sugars were virtually absent in our diets for much of human history, so it should come as no surprise that our bodies aren’t used to the chemical assault that we have unleashed upon them. Three hundred years ago people in Europe on average consumed a measly four pounds per year! This was, in part, due to the novelty of sugar and its hefty price tag. During that time a pound of sugar cost the equivalent of around $45 in today’s dollars, which is far pricier than the 65 cents per pound it costs at retail now.

Today in America, we’re on average consuming around 1.45 pounds per week, or around 76 pounds per year. Just imagine—76 pounds per year and 300 years ago we were consuming a measly 4 pounds annually! After learning more about what we’re doing to our bodies and reflecting on my past obsession with sugar, I began to feel more empowered and energized to make a change—and I know you will, too.  sugardetox.me

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