"Is that piece of chocolate an innocent indulgence? Or your next hit? We're finding that a sweet tooth makes you just as much an addict as snorting cocaine.
SETTLED on the sofa watching the usual rubbish on TV, I notice that predictable, uncontrollable, nightly craving. At first I sit there, fighting it. But the longer I fight, the worse it gets. After 20 minutes, I can't concentrate on anything, I feel anxious, and start fidgeting like crazy. Finally, admitting my addiction, I break. I go to the freezer - to my stash of white stuff - and take a hit. Almost instantly, I relax, my brain in a state of bliss as the chemical courses through my veins. Isn't it amazing what a few scoops of ice cream can do?
Before you dismiss my agitation as mere weakness, consider this: to my brain, sugar is akin to cocaine. There is now compelling evidence that foods high in sugar, fat and salt - as most junk foods are - can alter your brain chemistry in the same way as highly addictive drugs such as cocaine and heroin.
Junk foods switch on biological mechanisms that are just as hard to fight as recreational drugs."
-Bijal Trivedi, "Junkie Food: Tastes Your Brain Can't Resist," New Scientist, Sept. 8, 2010-
If you received this via email, click here to get the web version with the links & photos.
On Monday my husband made a double-batch of Rip Esselstyn's Engine 2 Dark Chocolate Brownies. He needed to bring something to his Master Gardener meeting--and he figured that as long as he was pulling out all that baking stuff--he'd make a batch for us, too.
Big mistake! Take my advice. Do not make these brownies. Do not have sugary treats in the house. Just because they don't use butter or oil or eggs--and just because they use cocoa and whole wheat flour--doesn't mean they're good for you. And it doesn't mean you'll eat less of them.
I rarely eat sugar or cookies or baked goods. Really. But if they're in MY HOUSE--who can resist that temptation? I ate three brownies--one right after the other--and honestly, I physically felt "not so good".
Your "Must Read" This Week: Gary Taubes Looks at the Research in the New York Times Magazine - Is Sugar Toxic?
Photo Illustration by Kenji Aoki for The New York Times; Prop Stylist: Nell Tivnan. Source: U.S.D.A. 2009 Estimates.
Gary Taubes' excellent NYT Magazine article will appear this Sunday, April 17, 2011. Here's the link--enjoy! Well, maybe "enjoy" isn't exactly the right word. Change that to: Worry, Wonder, Question, Quit Eating Sugar?
If you're a regular blog reader, you know all about the subject of Taubes' article--It starts with Dr. Robert Lustig and his viral YouTube video--"Sugar: The Bitter Truth". If you missed that post, you can read it here--and skip Lustig's 90 minute video--which was a taping of his University of San Francisco Mini-Medical School Lecture.
My Advice--Read the Article - But Here's a Taste--Teaser
Taubes gets right down to the bottom line, "This brings us to the salient question: Can sugar possibly be as bad as Lustig says it is?"
"If I didn’t buy this argument myself, I wouldn’t be writing about it here," says Taubes.
[For]Varman Samuel, who studies insulin resistance at Yale School of Medicine, the correlation between liver fat and insulin resistance in patients, lean or obese, is “remarkably strong.” What it looks like, Samuel says, is that “when you deposit fat in the liver, that’s when you become insulin-resistant.”
The Cancer Connection: One of the diseases that increases in incidence with obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome is cancer.
This is why I said earlier that insulin resistance may be a fundamental underlying defect in many cancers, as it is in type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The connection between obesity, diabetes and cancer was first reported in 2004 in large population studies by researchers from the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer.
It is not controversial. What it means is that you are more likely to get cancer if you’re obese or diabetic than if you’re not, and you’re more likely to get cancer if you have metabolic syndrome than if you don’t.
Cancer Is Rare in Non-Western Diets. The second observation was that malignant cancer, like diabetes, was a relatively rare disease in populations that didn’t eat Western diets, and in some of these populations it appeared to be virtually nonexistent.
Now most researchers will agree that the link between Western diet or lifestyle and cancer manifests itself through this association with obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome — i.e., insulin resistance. This was the conclusion, for instance, of a 2007 report published by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research — “Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer.”
How Does Insulin Resistance Promote Cancer? So how does it work? Cancer researchers now consider that the problem with insulin resistance is that it leads us to secrete more insulin, and insulin (as well as a related hormone known as insulin-like growth factor) actually promotes tumor growth.
As it was explained to me by Craig Thompson, who has done much of this research and is now president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, the cells of many human cancers come to depend on insulin to provide the fuel (blood sugar) and materials they need to grow and multiply. Insulin and insulin-like growth factor (and related growth factors) also provide the signal, in effect, to do it.
The more insulin, the better they do. Some cancers develop mutations that serve the purpose of increasing the influence of insulin on the cell; others take advantage of the elevated insulin levels that are common to metabolic syndrome, obesity and type 2 diabetes. Some do both.
Thompson believes that many pre-cancerous cells would never acquire the mutations that turn them into malignant tumors if they weren’t being driven by insulin to take up more and more blood sugar and metabolize it.
Is the problem caused by sugar or obesity or both? But some researchers will make the case, as Cantley and Thompson do, that if something other than just being fatter is causing insulin resistance to begin with, that’s quite likely the dietary cause of many cancers.
If it’s sugar that causes insulin resistance, they say, then the conclusion is hard to avoid that sugar causes cancer — some cancers, at least — radical as this may seem and despite the fact that this suggestion has rarely if ever been voiced before publicly. For just this reason, neither of these men (Cantley & Thompson) will eat sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, if they can avoid it.
“I have eliminated refined sugar from my diet and eat as little as I possibly can,” Thompson told me, “because I believe ultimately it’s something I can do to decrease my risk of cancer.” Cantley put it this way: “Sugar scares me.”
If you ask me it's not just about sugar. And it's not just about fat. It's about both! And we have more to be concerned about than just cancer! What about heart disease, stroke, arthritis, joint problems, dementia, the disability that comes with obesity, and more?
Sugar isn't the sole disease driver of this disability bus. It's also too much dietary fat, insufficient intake of vegetables & fruit, too little fiber from refined grains, too many calories, and not enough exercise!
My comment on Taubes' article in this morning's New York Times, sums up what I believe.
"Fantastic summary of the research by Taubes! Thank you.
Americans overconsume everything that tastes great--sugar & fat & salt. We're programmed to do it.
The worst part---they fill us up, and we have far less interest in the real stuff with all the nutrition---vegetables, fruits & whole grains.
I "mostly" ditched sugar 2 years ago. Nine months ago I ditched the fat. We can argue all we like---but my weight is down to college weight---and I'm 61--and I eat EVERYTHING "healthy & real" that I want to eat! And as much as I want to eat.
Couldn't feel better--and BP & lipids are now perfect. No more belly fat. It's not just about the sugar. It's about the fat, too. Never lost a pound by just ditching sugar!"