Cocaine or sugar?

Given a choice, lab rats choose sugar. In 2007, a study of 43 cocaine addicted laboratory rats who were given a choice of sugar water or cocaine over a 15 day period….showed that 93% of them chose sugar.

Sugar is addictive. Have you ever tried to ignore the bag of chocolates for the whole morning, to succumb to just one little one after lunch, then ending up eating the whole bag? You just can’t help it and by the sound of it, if they are that addictive, it’s not our fault. We know cigarettes, drugs and alcohol are addictive, but sugar?? our food? our chocolate? our crisps? (yes, there is sugar in crisps).

Laurie David, the executive producer of the film ‘Fed Up’ which launched in May this year, comments that around 80% of the 600,000 items sold in the US, have added sugar. Salad dressings, pasta sauces, granola bars all have added sugar. One single can of cola contains a mighty 10 teaspoons of sugar.

To put this into perspective, the World Health Organisation is considering right now to reduce the recommended limit of 10 teaspoons of sugar a day to just 5, sending out a warning that sugar intake should be halved. So whilst we mentally remind ourselves to half the sugar in our tea, or cut back on our fizzy drinks of an evening, in reality that doesn’t even scrape the surface. If the majority of what our supermarket sells contains sugar, then short of eating half the food (which happens to be addictive) how the hell are we going to be able to do that? Within a day, we would be back on it, due to its addictive nature. No wonder diets are so tricky, when 80% of our supermarket food has addiction built into it.

So the food industry has tricked us, they have sugar coated our food to make us want and buy more, just like the cigarette industry did with nicotine. How inconsiderate! Now we have to look at food like a drug from which to wean. But then again, why should we bother? So what if we eat lots of sugar? Ok it causes obesity we know that, but the odd chocolate bar or big dessert won’t hurt, will it?

Apparently it does. Every time you eat sugar, your body goes into crisis mode. Why? According to Iva Keene, an accredited and internationally recognised naturopathic physician; “because it requires specific minerals to break it (the sugar) down, the same ones that are found in the whole sugarcane plant. As your body can’t get these nutrients from refined sugar, it raids your own nutrient reserves to be able to digest the sugar you just ingested. As such, sugar is rightly named an anti-nutrient, robbing you of your health.”

The nutrients your body leaches to digest sugar, include calcium, chromium, magnesium and zinc. That’s where tooth decay and osteoporosis can come from; your body steals the calcium from your teeth and bones to use it to help you digest the sugar you’ve just eaten. When you lose minerals to sugar, she continues “your body can not make enough digestive enzymes to break down everything you eat. This not only leads to further complications such as poor digestion and absorption of nutrients from food, but it also increases your chances of developing allergies and food intolerances, as partly digested food particles can end up in your bloodstream.”

Studies have shown that too much sugar depresses immunity, and immune system imbalances have been linked to many diseases and health problems. So if you are suffering from something that you just can’t shift, perhaps it’s the sugar. Even constant tiredness could be caused by sugar. Ingesting sugar panics the body, causing it to pump a load of insulin into your bloodstream to regulate the toxins coming in; this is the sugar high. Then once your body has recovered from the chaos, it is exhausted, we feel tired and so we reach once again for the sugar…and panic, it all happens again. If you get to a point where your cells get fed up of the sugar chaos, then they no longer bother dealing with it effectively, resulting in type 2 diabetes.

But generally, sugar causes the body to become more acidic and it is this acidity where bacteria thrive. With bacteria comes disease, so it is actually more dangerous than we think.

John Yudkin’s book “Pure, White and Deadly”, published in 1972, showed even then, that consuming sugar and refined sweeteners are closely associated with long-term disease.

Gillespie, a Brisbane based lawyer turned researcher was shocked to discover how many of our organs, sugar systematically destroys, without symptoms, until it is too late; first the liver, then the pancreas, then the kidneys, and ultimately the heart.

As a steady diet, sugar is worse than nothing. Plain water can keep you alive for quite some time, whereas sugar and water can kill you.

Watch out for the fake sugar too; sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, hidden under a variety of names and just as deadly. When it says ‘low in sugar’ on the packet, it is likely to mean high in fake sugar chemicals, which your body cannot digest and which cause serious damage.

Aspartame, found in diet sodas, is one of the worst. According to pilots associations, pilots are not supposed to consume it, as it can cause vision problems and seizures, hence risking passenger safety. Aspartame causes formaldehyde to build up in your brain and when aspartame is combined with caffeine, like in diet cola, the toxins created, kill off brain cells. The food industry claims that aspartame is safe, although they are the ones that have actually funded most of the studies on aspartame in the first place. Independent studies show a whole different story.

Enough now, you get the picture. Sugar in whatever guise, is not only addictive, but a killer. It is time to stop.

Gillespie, in his book “Sweet Poison”, charted his own decision to stop eating sugar, which resulted in him losing six stone in a year, without dieting. He explains: “You are breaking an addiction, so you need to stop consuming all sources of the addictive substance. They are all hard to give up because they are addictive – but they are all easy to give up once you understand what you are doing and why.”

He adds: “Your palate adjusts significantly and quickly when you delete sugar. You can suddenly experience a whole range of flavours that either you didn’t know existed before or were muted by the presence of sugar.

But how are we going to even think about what we can and can’t eat, when potentially 80% of our supermarket contains sugar?

The easiest way would be to choose foods that do not have a label. If there is a label with a list of ingredients, it is likely to have been chemically manipulated and over processed. Therefore, it ends up not actually being food, more a food-like product. In hunter gatherer times, food was scarce, high in nutrition and low in calories, nowadays food is abundant, low in nutrition and high in calories. As the film ‘Hungry for Change’ states, we are overfed, but our cells, lacking in nutrients, are starving to death.

So what can we eat? It’s all about replacement. Fill your kitchen with plenty of vegetables and fruit, nuts and seeds, make your own combinations of food. Choose whole foods instead of the stripped down version. For example, white rice has had all the nutrients stripped out of it, so is of very little nutritional value to your cells. As you add more and more good foods, rich in nutrients to your diet, the bad foods will eventually be crowded out. The more natural food you eat, the better functioning your body will be, your heart, liver, brain, eyes, skin. Heal your body and let it take care of itself. Want a quick lunch? Pull out your fruit and veg and juice it. Give your cells those nutrients they are craving, then they won’t be starving and nor will you.


1. Crowd it out

In the film ‘Hungry for Change’, it’s all about replacement. As you add more and more good foods, rich in nutrients, the bad foods will eventually be crowded out.

Make those changes over time and keep going.

Pros: gentle, gradual change

Cons: still eating addictive foods means it can be tricky

2. Rip it off

Claudia Norris, Nutritional Therapist says; “Cutting out sugar is a bit like pulling off a plaster- best done quickly. A great way to do it is to give yourself a 10 day challenge to reset your taste buds. Resetting is important because it will banish a sweet tooth. When I first became interested in nutrition I swapped sugar for honey, sweets for fruit etc but it took me a while to realise that I was still on a blood sugar roller coaster and it’s only by resetting that you can be free of the cravings. During the 10 days you can have 2 pieces of fruit with your breakfast (eggs are ideal), and then veg for the rest of the day, along with plenty of protein (e.g. fish or chicken) and brown rice or beans and other unrefined carbs. No honey or other sweeteners are allowed. If you start to feel very tired from the sugar withdrawal, have some cooked sweet potato wedges or carrot sticks. You will be amazed on day 11 how sweet fruit tastes in the afternoon and how much energy it can give you when you are feeling tired. There will be no need to reach for sugar-laden food or drinks – it will taste too sweet!”

Pros: done in a one

Cons: ignoring temptation

3. Switch it up

I personally did a 10 day detox as Claudia suggests and now I do the 80:20 rule. 80% of the time, I am sugar free and 20% of the time I allow myself some. Generally, Sunday to Friday sugar free and then Friday night and Saturday I have a little. Not too much though, just enough to join in.

Pros: some enjoyment

Cons: constantly switching and having to cut addiction every single week.

Although saying that, once you are 80% sugar free, the 20% feels less and less like a treat. By Sunday you feel so bad from the sugar, that you can’t wait to cut it out again

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