Kick Your Sugar Addiction
Are you a sucker for sweets and soda? Learn to break free.
WebMD News Archive
Jan 3, 2003 -- There's no denying that we Americans love our sugary treats.
Former President Ronald Reagan had to have jellybeans on his desk at all times.
Vending machines in schools, offices, and almost everywhere else feed our
desire to eat sweets throughout the day. With sales of sodas, candy, and other
sweets soaring, it's clear that, as a nation, we are virtually addicted to
sugar in all its glorious forms.
While sugar is not literally addicting, scientists long ago proved that
people are born with a preference for sweets. This innate desire does not
disappear as we grow older. Some people find it impossible to leave the dinner
table without dessert; others can't fathom a day without chocolate. Many women
blame hormonal surges for the sweets cravings they get around the same time
The results of this sugar "addiction" are not always so sweet. Sugar
and other sweeteners add calories with few other nutrients and have no doubt
helped contribute to our near-epidemic of obesity. (Of course, sugar is not
alone in promoting obesity -- a lack of exercise and excessive calories from
many other sources share the blame.)
Cavities and Calories
Sugar has been blamed for everything from diabetes, tooth decay, obesity,
and heart disease to disruptive behavior in the classroom. But sugar by itself
will not cause any of these conditions -- except cavities.
"Sweets can definitely increase the risk of [cavities] when the
sweetened substances pool around the teeth or sticky sweets adhere to the
surface of the tooth," says Atlanta dentist James Sylvan, DDS.
Aside from that, a comprehensive review of scientific research, published in
the journal Nutrition Research in 1997, showed that sugar is not a
direct cause of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, or hyperactivity. A more
recent government report concurs that sugar is not by itself linked to any of
those conditions. However, too many calories, in any form, can contribute to
obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
The Blood-Sugar Roller Coaster
Changes in our behavior are often attributed to changes in our blood sugar
levels. When you consume a meal made up of simple, refined carbohydrates --
like a doughnut or a soft drink -- the result is a spike in blood sugar. Your
body responds to this spike by secreting large amounts of insulin to normalize
your blood sugar level.
In response to the insulin, your blood sugar level drops quickly, leaving
you with a feeling of sluggishness and irritability.
When your blood sugar gets too low, hunger reappears, and the roller-coaster
ride resumes -- that is, if your next meal is also mostly simple carbohydrates.
These are the carbohydrates that the latest diet books denounce, not the
healthy, fibrous carbohydrates that come from whole fruits, vegetables, and
If, instead of eating simple carbs by themselves, you choose these healthy
carbohydrates or add some protein or fat to your meal, your blood sugar will
rise and fall more normally without the negative side effects.