Category Archives: sugar addiction

Read Labels to Find the Sugar

Sugar is hidden under wide range of names, so in order to know if you are getting added sugars, you must read labels. Usually if the sugar is fourth or more on the list, there is very little added sugar, but that isn’t 100% certain. To avoid sugar, you don’t want it on the label at all. Here are the usual suspects:

Agave nectar
Barley Sugar
Brown sugar
Cane crystals
Cane sugar
Corn sweetener
Corn syrup
Crystalline fructose
Evaporated cane juice
Fruit juice concentrates
High-fructose corn syrup
Invert sugar
Malt syrup
Raw sugar
Barley malt
Beet sugar
Brown sugar
Buttered syrup
Cane juice crystals
Cane sugar
Corn syrup
Corn syrup solids
Confectioner’s sugar
Carob syrup
Castor sugar
Date sugar
Demerara sugar
Diastatic malt
Ethyl maltol
Fruit juice
Fruit juice concentrate
Glucose solids
Golden sugar
Golden syrup
Grape sugar
High-fructose corn syrup
Icing sugar
Invert sugar
Malt syrup
Maple syrup
Maple sugar
Muscovado sugar
Raw sugar
Refiner’s syrup
Rice syrup
Sorghum syrup
Turbinado sugar
Yacon syrup
Yellow sugar

Sugar-Starch Detox Plan

Giving up sugar is not one bit easier than giving up any other addictive substance. In fact, I know a couple people who through AA gave up liquor only to then really struggle to give up sugars and starches.

What to expect: like giving up coffee, if you go cold-turkey, headaches, fatigue, crankiness, and very big cravings are all such symptoms to anticipate for usually 3-5 days. However, if you systematically plan to eliminate these addictive foods, and have good discipline, you can cut down sugar more slowly with little to no pain.

Keep a food diary of what you do eat/drink during this time. Each week builds, so you keep what you do in the first week when you start week two, and so on.

Week 1) No added sugar in any form (in beverages, desserts, any food)–certainly no junk food. If you feel headachy, that would be a good time for a small apple, a few berries, or a cheese stick.

Week 2) Stop any flours, regardless of how they are promoted as healthy, for carbohydrate sensitive people they are addictive, and indeed are broken down to the very same blood glucose as any other overt sugar. Increase your green and red veggies.

Week 3) Examine the foods you have been eating and determine if they are foods with high starch and added sugars. Cut back the obvious kinds of sugars-starches, especially packaged foods that nearly always have added sugars &/or starch.

Week 4) Now is the time to really get serious, and eliminate artificial sweeteners, save for modest amounts of natural sweeteners like stevia, monk fruit, and a small amount of xylitol or erythritol (these can create intestinal issues like excess bloating/gas).

One month and you should have an at least 80% or better clean eating plan. You can refine from that point to get your perfect balance, and you will no longer be a sugaraholic. Most people following this plan will drop weight, sometimes a lot of weight. All will be healthier, and on the road to all around excellent health.


Yours in good health,

Nan aka Sugarbaby

Is Sugar Addictive?

The answer for many people is an unqualified Yes! Certainly there is a spectrum in almost everything, including a person’s sensitivity to alcohol, marijuana, the whole gamut of substances, including sugar, that can be addictive. The astonishing rates of obesity, rising rapidly the last forty years, is proof that sugar (and all starchy/carb foods that turn into sugars in the blood stream) has become highly addictive for many people.

Here is another good article on the subject:

The sweet lowdown: Is sugar the world’s most ubiquitous drug?

By Marilisa Racco National Online Journalist, Smart Living Global News  

The hit. The rush. The crash. The need for another fix. This roller coaster-like experience is one we usually associate with an addictive drug, like heroin or cocaine. But studies have shown that we experience the same range of physiological responses when we consume sugar. Except that this white stuff is legal.

Like Homer Simpson with a box of donuts, sugar addicts scarf sweetened goods — which we now know transcend just desserts to include kitchen staples like tomato sauce, salad dressing, breads and cereals, among other items — greedily hunting down their euphoric effects.

“When one consumes excessive amounts of sugar, it leads to changes in gene expression for opioids that are similar to what you would see when someone is dependent on a drug like morphine,” says Nicole Avena, assistant professor at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and author of Why Diets Fail (Because You’re Addicted to Sugar).

In 2008, Avena co-authored an animal-based study on sugar dependence by analyzing four components of addiction: bingeing, withdrawal, craving and cross-sensitization. The behaviours that resulted from sugar consumption were then related to the neurochemical changes that happen in the brain with addictive drugs.

Upon consumption, sugar sends a message to the brain that triggers its reward system, which is the same system that surges when we do intensely pleasurable things like have sex or do drugs. Dopamine, which is the main chemical in the reward system, is sent into overdrive every time an addictive substance is consumed, thus causing the person to seek that “high” over and over again.

In a TED-Ed Original, How sugar affects the brain, Avena explains that dopamine is naturally released when we eat. But after eating the same food repeatedly, it starts to level out and we no longer experience the same “high” from eating it. (Apparently, you can get sick of pizza.) This is an evolutionary response to varying our diet to ensure we get a range of vitamins and minerals. However, with over-consumption of sugar, dopamine levels never even out. We simply don’t get sick of eating it.

The subjects of Avena’s study also experienced the classic symptoms of withdrawal normally associated with substance abuse.

“Excessive use of sugar can produce a withdrawal-like state that is characterized by tremors, shakes, anxiety and bodily changes that are similar to opiate withdrawal,” she says. “They’re all characteristics of addiction that have been shown with sugar.”

That’s something that Doreen can attest to. She went to Food Addicts Anonymous 27 years ago (she can’t share her last name as anonymity is an integral part of the program) and says she’s still relying on the tactics they taught her today.

“When I entered the program, the thought of not eating sugar was horrific,” she recalls. “But they said to me, ‘Can you do it for just one day?’ And I took it one day at a time, and still do that today.”

She also describes what she felt as she withdrew from sugar.

“Mood swings, back aches, flu-like symptoms, crying,” she says. “Everyone is a little different, but it’s an addiction and it will come with withdrawal.”

A not-so-sweet past

When we look at history, it comes as little surprise that there are parallels between sugar and other addictive substances. Sugar arrived on European shores from the tropics in the 16th century along with a spate of other now notorious delights, like coffee, chocolate, rum and tobacco.

Unfortunately, neither the dopamine response nor the forbidden nature of sugar are the only reasons we crave the sweet stuff. It turns out, we’re actually hardwired to want it.

“The T1R on the tongue that detects sweetness is the most evolutionary receptor we have,” says Robert Lustig, a professor of pediatrics at the University of California San Francisco and author of the upcoming book The Hacking of the American Mind: Inside the sugar-coated plot to confuse pleasure with happiness (September 2017).

Everyone is born with five taste receptors on the tongue — sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami (or savoury) — but our propensity for sweet dates back to ancestral times.

“Nature likes to experiment with mutation, but this taste was conserved all the way through virtually every animal and all humans,” he says. “It’s because sweet was an evolutionary signal that any given foodstuff in the wild was safe to eat. There’s nothing that tastes sweet that’s also acutely poisonous.”

But experts would argue that sugar is, in itself, a poison. The most recent Canadian statistics indicate that 20.2 per cent of adults (approximately 5.3 million people) classified as obese in 2014.

And the addiction isn’t just outwardly apparent, either. People blessed with a fast metabolism might be able to eat as much sugar as they want, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t wrecking havoc on their liver.

“Sugar is like alcohol, except it doesn’t give you the acute effects drinking does,” Lustig says.

Alcohol is borne from the fermentation of sugar; that’s what wine is. Except with alcohol, the yeast that’s in it takes the first step in metabolizing it, whereas, with sugar, our bodies take that first step. When our systems receive a rush of sugar, it can’t be metabolized, so it passes through the liver and becomes fat.

That liver fat is the starting point of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and tooth decay, and has been shown to have links to cancer and dementia.

“Virtually all the chronic diseases we are dying from are driven by sugar,” Lustig says.

The sugar cover-up Page 2 of 6

The sweet lowdown: Is sugar the worldʼs most ubiquitous drug? | 2/2/17, 9(42 AM

So, how did we become over-sweetened masses? It all started in the 1960s when sugar interest groups messed around with scientific studies.

The New York Times ran an exposé in September detailing how the sugar industry paid off scientists in the 1960s to downplay sugar’s effects on heart disease and instead single out saturated fat as the villain.

The documents were published in JAMA Internal Medicine and show how the Sugar Research Foundation paid three Harvard scientists $6,500 in 1965 (roughly $49,000 today) to conduct research studies on the effects of sugar and fat on heart disease. The foundation’s members then sifted through the studies to find the ones that indicated fat was the greatest health offender and published those in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“They were able to derail the discussion about sugar for decades,” Stanton Glantz, a professor of medicine at U.C.S.F. and an author of the JAMA Internal Medicine paper, said to The New York Times.

To add fuel to the fire, in 1977, the USDA released its first dietary guidelines pointing an accusatory finger at saturated and animal fats. The only problem was that people wouldn’t (or couldn’t) distinguish between healthy fats and saturated fats, so all fats were demonized. It gave birth to the low-fat movement, which opened the floodgates for added sugar.

“When you take the fat out of food, it tastes terrible,” Lustig says. “So they had to make it more palatable with added sugar.”

Sweet release

Like any addictive substance, quitting sugar requires a cold turkey approach, but the rapidity of positive effects might make the task a little easier.

In a 2015 study published in the journal Obesity, Lustig culled a group of 43 kids with metabolic syndrome (the precursor to diabetes) and replaced all the added sugar in their diets with starch. Pastries and teriyaki mains were replaced with bagels and turkey hot dogs, for example. (It’s important to note that the goal was not weight loss, but to measure the physiological changes from cutting out added sugar.)

After 10 days on this new diet, all participants showed improvements in their metabolic rates, including reduced blood pressure, lactate and triglyceride levels. While most participants lost weight, the study’s most interesting finding might just be that in those who did not lose weight, the metabolic changes were still consistent.

The inevitable takeaway is that sugar is bad for you.

Like fats, however, some sugar is fine. We know fruit is loaded with sugar, but because it has such a high fibre content, the fibre acts as a barrier in the intestine and prevents the body from absorbing the sugar. That’s also why juice is the worst way to ensure you’re meeting your daily fruit intake — once you take the fibre out, all you’re left with is sugar.

It’s hard to avoid added sugar, especially considering that two-thirds of all packaged foods in Canada contain added sugar, but there are some supermarket tactics you can employ.

“It’s like what health experts have been saying for a long time: shop the perimeter of the supermarket and take time to read labels,” says Quinn Hand, a naturopathic doctor and founder of Q Wellness. Page 3 of 6

The sweet lowdown: Is sugar the worldʼs most ubiquitous drug? | 2/2/17, 9(42 AM

It’s also important to educate yourself on the many aliases sugar goes by.
“The hard part is that people don’t know when they read ‘maltodextrin,’ it’s just another name for sugar,” she says.

She recognizes that sugar has quietly seeped its way into unassuming foods, like canned tomatoes, but she says that the first step in trying to reduce you and your family’s added sugar intake is to prepare things from scratch.

“Education has to come in especially for breakfast foods, because cereal has a lot of added sugar,” she says. “When we talk about breakfast, we want to talk about blood sugar sustaining foods, like eggs or steel-cut oats. High carbohydrate and sugary cereals are not beneficial.”

Kicking sugar is also a question of rethinking its place in modern life. As with most things, it’s about going back to basics.

“Once upon a time, sugar was a condiment that you used for coffee and tea,” Lustig says. “Now it’s a diet staple. We need to go back to a previous way of thinking. Bring back the concept of ‘one lump or two?’ and that will help keep our consumption under the disease-causing threshold.” Page 4 of 6



Sugar Addiction: Neuroscience Knows it is Real

Karen Thomson calls herself a recovering addict of sugar but her own struggles with addiction didn’t start with sugar. As an inpatient in a rehabilitation program treating alcohol and cocaine addiction, Thomson discovered that her behavioural addiction to illegal substances started with her sugar intake at a young age.

“My first memory of using sugar to soothe myself, to make myself feel better … was when I was four-years-old and there was a big trauma in my family at that time,” Thomson tells The Current’s Anna Maria Tremonti. She remembers her dad at the time coming home at night with a Coca-Cola and a chocolate representing safety and security to Thomson.


Brain activity of people addicted to sugar matches that of people addicted to other substances, says neuroscientist Nicole Avena. (rpavich/flickr cc)

“From that time I started associating the sugary product with these feelings of love and comfort.”

Thomson now practices abstinence from sugar as she does from alcohol and drugs.

“Very often as with other addiction there’s an underlying trauma that hasn’t been dealt with. And that’s why they’re addicted to an external substance,” says Thomson, also the author of  Sugar Free: 8 Weeks to Freedom from Sugar and Carb Addiction. Thomson has used her experience to establish the HELP clinic in Cape Town, South Africa, to help others kick the sugar habit.

Related: Evidence for Sugar Addiction

Neuroscientist Nicole Avena, who specializes in diet and addiction, tells Tremonti that research going back 15 years shows how the brain reacts when a person consumes an excessive amount of sugar.

“There’s activation in areas of the brain that are similar to what you see with an addiction to a drug abuse.”

It also means sugar withdrawal can have similar symptoms to nicotine or morphine withdrawal such as irritability, tremors and shakes.

Avena says addiction treatment follows different approaches that work for different people but suggests using a harm reduction model: cutting out the problematic food can help control intake over time and slowly reduce it.

“Often this is done many times with cases of alcohol misuse and … get to the point where they are regaining control of their behavior and then are slowly able to reintroduce it — with a lot of self-checking along the way to make sure that they’re not having those old habits creep back into play.”

Listen to the full conversation including author of The Hunger Fix, Dr. Pamela Peeke.

This segment was produced by The Current’s Sujata Berry and Sam Colbert.


More on Effects of Sugar

by Sarene Kloren 

It’s no longer a secret that the vast majority of us are blissfully unaware sugar addicts. Modern conveniences in consumables are great at making life easier in the short term, but what about the long-term implications?

A report published in 2009 shows food addiction is plausible as “brain pathways that evolved to respond to natural rewards are also activated by addictive drugs. Sugar releases opioids and dopamine and, thus, might be expected to have addictive potential”.

A further report published in 2013 indicates that sugar is as, if not more, desirable than addictive drugs such as cocaine. This research aims to prove that “sugar and sweetness can induce reward and craving that are comparable in magnitude to those induced by addictive drugs”.

With these two findings it’s hard to believe that, as parents, we are still largely oblivious to the long-term, damaging effects of over consuming sugar-dense foods and beverages.

So a sugar tax may be introduced, which will certainly help moderate and potentially reduce the average consumption of free sugars (sugar added to food and drink, as well as sugar found naturally in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates). But it will take a deeper understanding of what we consume to avoid the top health issues South Africans currently face – obesity, diabetes and heart conditions – all resulting largely from sugar-dense diets and little to no exercise.

According to a statement released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) “adults and children need to reduce their daily intake of free sugars to less than 10 percent of their total energy intake. A further reduction to below five percent or roughly 25 grams (6 teaspoons) a day would provide additional health benefits”.

So what is a safe recommended daily allowance for sugar? Although we all lead different lifestyles and have varying metabolic requirements, the UK’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) have suggested the following:

* Children aged 4 to 6 should have no more than 19g or five teaspoons of free sugars a day.

* Children aged 7 to 10 should have no more than 24g or six teaspoons of free sugars a day.

* Children aged 11 years and upwards, as well as adults, should have no more than 30g or seven teaspoons of free sugar a day.

To illustrate what this means, take a look at some of the popular beverages our children love, and their approximate sugar contents:

* 250ml iced tea = 19g or four teaspoons of free sugar.

* 250ml flavoured drinking yoghurt = 26.8 g or five and a half teaspoons of free sugar.

* 330ml cola = 35g or seven teaspoons of free sugar.

* 330ml ginger beer = 37g or six and a half teaspoons of free sugar.

Overcoming an addiction is by no means an easy feat and the same holds true for sugar dependency. Almost all modern convenience consumables contain added free sugar, especially children’s favourites such as cereals, beverages, fast foods and treats.

So how do we reduce the excess sugars from our diets?

1 Become aware. Understand that food is medicine and always try to ensure that all consumables remain as close as possible to their natural state. If sweetening is required, look at healthier options such as fresh fruit or vegetables.

2 Read labels carefully. Not all free or added sugars are labelled as sugars. For example: agave nectar, corn sweetener, dextrose, honey, corn syrup, sucrose, fructose, glucose and molasses.

3 Limit sugar added beverages, cited as being responsible for the majority of added sugar in US diets. Try naturally flavouring water or using a SodaStream to make fun, healthier drink options. Their syrups also comprise one third of the sugar compared to regular sodas.

4 Reduce your family’s super sweet sugar tolerance with a moderated sugar and bolstered wholefood diet. Over time, consumables high in sugar will start tasting too sweet as your tolerance returns to its normal, natural state.

5 Bake instead of buying treats. Homemade treats will no doubt contain less added and highly synthetic sweeteners, and you have the ability to further reduce the sugar content with natural sweeteners like fruits or vegetables. One favourite cupcake recipe calls for swopping out a large portion of the sugar for a glass of white wine. The alcohol cooks out and makes a delicious, moist cupcake.

The key to all healthy living is moderation and a balanced diet. This is not to say indulgent foods high in fat and/or sugar can’t be enjoyed. They can, but just not daily.


New Taubes’ Article-Nutritionists Who Aid the Sugar Industry

Note the 655% increase in diabetes in the last sixty years which correlates all too well with the increase in sugar in foods.

Obesity High and Rising

My rant for 2017 is the same as it was in January 2016: we have an obesity epidemic that is largely being ignored by the people who are responsible for the type and quality of food most available to average consumers in the USA, and most western countries. No other so clearly documented rise in a disease area would be ignored; yet, obesity is laid uncaringly at the feet of consumers.

Never before have our markets had such a domination of the shelves by cheap high sugar-starch foods. The poor have even fewer options. Unless you can grow your own food, which is neither easy nor inexpensive these days, or have farmers’ markets nearby, you are solely in the hands of the five big agricultural controllers of the world’s food supply. Our markets now have less variety of foods, and lower quality, with more of the same low cost-to-produce goods, filled with highly addictive and damaging carbohydrates, and no warnings on those products to mostly untutored consumers.

The latest data can been seen at the sites below, and we can expect obesity, and its related diseases (diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia dominating) to continue to increase at disturbing levels. If government and industry won’t address the problem, and it seems unlikely they will since it means big-ag loses money–and fewer lobbies are bigger in Washington, D.C. than big-ag. That leaves it up to ordinary citizens like us to make sure information is spread to help people who are particularly vulnerable.

Yours in basic human decency,

Nan aka Sugarbaby


Happy New Year! More on Sugar Addiction

I’ve been having a discussion with a friend who is in a support group for overeaters–and forwarded me this site–about the complexities of dieting. As I read through the list, it came to me that intention (to eat healthier or lose weight) without knowledge, or knowledge without support, can make sticking to a healthy eating program a far bigger challenge than many might think.

Many people who know clearly that they have an addictive response to sugars and starches can still struggle to stay on a low carb program if they don’t have adequate support to keep at it day after day, year after year. Especially those with morbid obesity and/or metabolic issues like low thyroid, among others. While I’ve read dozens of books on diet, nutrition, paleo-primal-evolutionary development, filling my head with information, and stopping the obviously offending foods, was only the first step. The limbic brain at work in most of us doesn’t completely cease to crave those high carb foods, especially when we constantly see and smell them; and, in this age, we can barely have an hour when there are not some advertisements before us via magazines, television, internet, radio, billboards, and at virtually all businesses we commonly patronize. I daily see the discards of fast-food along the highways, which means escape from the sight, sound, smells of the worst of modern foods is hard to come by, so prevalent is the industry in the west.

On the other hand, those attempting to get relief from cravings need to get knowledge about the ubiquity as well as addictive nature of high sugar/carb foods, since nearly every strong craving comes from carbs, salt, or fat, usually in combination. I’ve yet to meet anyone with an overwhelming craving for plain lettuce.

So we who struggle with addictive responses to sugar, starch, and most artificial sweeteners need both knowledge and support.

I know it is hard for people with families who do not understand that modern high carb diets are not only generally fattening, but unhealthy, and insist on keeping such foods in the house. I’m very fortunate to have tremendous support from my spouse, and others. If you are not so lucky, you might want to look into one of the weight loss or food addiction support groups which give support regardless of what food program you are on (see my previous post).

Perhaps one of the hardest concepts to keep before us is that we are individuals with varying responses to varying stimuli, including foods. I have people in my family who struggle to gain weight, others who struggle to lose weight, all with differing levels of vision-dental-physical-mental health, not to mention all the other ways we differ; no one thing works perfectly for everyone else. While we share a great deal in common, it is important to keep in mind we are unique individuals. People who point fingers and say “if you just did x, y, z” need a big dose of humility.  Health is in some ways simple, as indeed is life, but in more ways it’s complicated. The best we can do is continue to look for answers throughout our lives.

Yours in looking at all sides of the issues,

Nan aka Sugarbaby

Support Systems

No matter how good the eating program may be sometimes it can be hard to implement the program if we are surrounded by people and foods that would undermine our resolve.

I’m very lucky to have a supportive spouse who works with me, and no kids in the house, but I have known many people who get push back from partners, spouses, children, and friends when they try to eliminate the old standard American/western diet (SAD) for lchf, lower calorie, or any of the low carb healthier plans. I also know when our grand-girls are here for a visit, I find my eating is much more of a struggle, and have been known to go off the tracks here and there.

For many people the value of programs like Weight Watchers (WW) and TOPs, lies in the support they receive for making the diet changes. While I disagree with the WW platform, I have known several people to be successful with weight loss on WW because of the support and encouragement.

A better program for many people who struggle with cravings, binges, and overeating in general, is Overeaters Anonymous (, which doesn’t advocate any particular diet, and focuses on abstinence from trigger foods (usually sugars and grain-based foods). They follow the model of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), using a 12-step approach that for many is very helpful; plus they have online and telephone meetings as well as face-to-face meetings so you can get support anywhere or anytime, especially if you get a sponsor. Many people have a true addictive response to sugars/grains, since those foods act on the same part of the brain as opioids and alcohol, so OA can be a great way to get support for people with addictive eating or eating disorders.

I read of a study (could have been this one I’ve linked) some years ago that found when people had a weight-loss buddy, sponsor, friend, they had much higher success. This makes sense, for it adds the element of accountability. When faced with the chocolate cake, we are more likely to ignore its call if we know we have someone who will ask how we are doing with our food.

During the holidays many of us feel the challenge of avoiding the old high-carb foods of the past as we meet with family and friends for the festive occasions. Additionally, especially during holidays, work places, and other meeting places, can be minefields for people working to get and stay low carb. Always being prepared is a great goal, but also requires good discipline to make sure we don’t give in to foods that can trigger eating in unhealthy ways. Few of us are always prepared. Having a support system in place can make the process of avoiding old trigger foods much easier.

One thing I know, and so do you, we are never happier for eating poorly, so doing whatever it takes to get the support needed to be healthy is a good way to go.

Hoping you have the support you need.


Nan aka Sugarbaby

Will Taxing Sugar Make a Difference?

Like the effort to control smoking with ever increasing tobacco taxes, those concerned with our obesity epidemic, and declining western health, are now moving to similar taxes on one of the major culprits which is sugary drinks like soda pop.  New York mayor Bloomberg was ridiculed when he attempted to make a difference on this front several years ago, but now Philadelphia, PA has such a tax with the funds directed to early childhood education.

Only time will tell how much this tax will change anything, but it is a step in the right direction for a country with over thirty percent of its population dangerously obese, and all related health problems like diabetes and heart disease increasing rapidly.

Getting Americans to recognize the dangers of smoking took half a century, and there are still people who smoke, but the totality of measures from taxing, education, warning labels, and removal of ads that encouraged smoking finally made a dent in what was a growing lung cancer crisis.  None of these changes happen quickly, but nothing will change without some effort toward addressing the problems associated with our western high sugar-starch foods that dominate in our super markets.

I saw some of the ads by purveyors aired during the run up to the election, and they were in my opinion shameful distortions, calling the measure a grocery or food tax: we all know that soda is not and never will be food.  But such is the greed factor that always seems to be as strong if not stronger than the human health factors.

Other places are moving this direction, so I expect it will be the norm before too long. One step for human health, and not before time.

Yours in health,

Nan aka Sugarbaby

PS: Update–Seems the tax may work: