Is it really that dangerous, addictive and toxic as spread around the health experts community? What is the evidence, treatment and when is it needed? As some decades ago ..fat was the villain of the metabolic picture, now we change the enemy towards sugar . Just because we're bored with fat? Or is it really the enemy to pursue?
To begin with, the only enemy if there's any ..is the unconsciousness, reckless and biased behavior of "health authorities" to really fund research that can answer more questions in terms of many of the chronic and metabolic diseases, as harsh as it sounds, is ridiculous that the amount of budget for drugs and now for a compound that came from one of the most polemic herbal stimulants such as marihuana is being more funded than the research on finding out how our internal organs work with a toxic feeding pattern that has been created unfortunately by the selfish greed to obtain money from many of the food companies.
Let's unravel some of the real facts, give knowledge and educate people to look for key information even in the huge effort to hide it.
Glucose is an energetic molecule needed for many of the metabolic pathways (your internal freeways), starting from one of the main streets to being processed named Glycolysis it is converted to pyruvate giving you along the road a net balance (roughly) of 2 ATP's which is your energetic coin (is the dollar of your cells) and rendering 2 NADH which is a coenzyme (metabolic helper/carrier) to produce 2 molecules of pyruvate.
After producing pyruvate which will be needed to produce Acetyl-CoA and enter the next freeway named Krebs Cycle, where more energetic helpers/carriers are produced, 3 NADH, 2 FADH and 1 GTP (cousin of the ATP). All of that energy has to be transformed to ATP in our powerhouses ..the Mitochondria!
That molecule named NADH as well as the FADH are two of the main energetic compounds that are still a "money energetic checks" that have to be changed at the bank of your cells, the mitochondria, in the internal membrane of your powerhouse, there's another pathway or "flow of cash" which is known in the scientific underworld as "Electron Transport Chain" or "Oxidative Phosphorylation", without trying to make it to complex, in this process the NADH liberates hydrogen to propel an energetic turbine named ATPase which is the enzyme in charge of phosphorylating ADP into ATP and also adding the Hydrogens or Protons to Oxygen and release water.
All of these pathways and metabolic processes are some of the main destinations for carbohydrates molecules that can enter the pathways at many entry points and not always as glucose, that is why glucose is not "essential" as also wrongly stated, many of those entry points for these pathways can be accessed when fat molecules are oxidized to Acetyl-CoA in another freeway named "Beta Oxidation or Lipolysis" which in fact give a lot more molecules of this energy precursor, Acetyl-CoA, to your body.
So one thing is very clear fat ..does give you more energy molecules than sugar!
The other energetic ingredients that can be used to obtain carbohydrate compounds that access the main energetic pathways are proteins, many of the amino acids, to be exact we as humans have 13 glucogenic amino acids, can give you carbohydrate compounds that will be able to produce either Acetyl-CoA or other carb-like compounds that will access those energetic pathways.
If that seems not enough..there's also a "warehouse" of glucose in your liver which is named glycogen, and to be easier to understand how it assembles, is sort of a tangerine where each of the segments can be as one molecule of glucose, of course, glycogen has more segments than the fruit, so don't worry for running out of them!
The process where glycogen will start to produce glucose is known as glycogenolysis, this amazing reservoir will start to release glucose whenever your blood sugar levels appear to be low, exactly as a sensor, your body will know when to activate this process and you don't even need to worry to rush for another soda, candy or anything to pump your sugar up unless of course you're already sick and have type 1 diabetes which then means that your insulin or "key" to start the phosphorylating and letting glucose enter in the cell won't work.
Moreover, our amazing body also has other energetic compounds known as ketone bodies, which are also produced from fat deposits and fat molecules when our glucose sensors perceive that our levels are low. When this happens, our liver starts producing three main ketone bodies known as acetone, acetoacetic acid and hydroxy-butyric acid or hydroxy-butyrate. These three energy horses will rescue your body from fainting, feeling completely exhausted, losing your cognitive abilities and much more, they will even be so kind with you feeding five of your main organs or tissues inside your body.
They will feed you brain, heart, kidneys, lungs and your muscles. Therefore, you're not left alone with glucose again, you always have energetic rescuers that will allow your body and brain to maintain plenty of the performance that you've been conditioned to believe that was only sustained by glucose.
We have to thank the star of your metabolic movie, which is the liver, for all of these amazing freeways, access points and variety of resources that gives us everyday to obtain energy and to remain at peace doing or "busy" work.
I just wish that by now you are really feeling a huge gratitude feeling for all your organs, cells and chemical compounds that allow you to access all of your senses and functions everyday and that many times are not acknowledge or receive any credit for!
Moreover, this one of the main reasons for you to take care of your body in the proper way by giving it, premium fuel not the garbage that many of us we usually give. That's why knowing how we work internally and just trying to imagine all that synchronicity, all that team work and all that compassion between your inner world and what you are gifted to appreciate or access due to all this biochemical magic fair is the least you can do to start thinking more what are you feeding yourself with, what kind of emotions are you also feeding to your body...because your emotional responses also wreck many of this synchronic events!
After all these biochemistry lessons and proof that you don't only really need glucose to give you energy, I would really hope that you become more aware that your body doesn't need the false spread amount of 50-55% carbohydrates in your diet to have energy, there are plenty of resources to get energy from!
Know moving on to the addiction and negative effects of sugary food, which encompasses many chemical names that companies use to disguise the truth that almost all the processed food has some kind of simple sugar compound.
Be proactive and invest some time whenever you go to do your groceries, at first it will look as if you were a health supervisor, however after all your body and brain do for you, this is one of the ways to thank them.
Any of these names and you can look more because we wouldn't finish the article is a chemical compound that will be processed as sugar, as a trigger to your hormones and as a trigger to your brain receptors to ask for more:
- Any sugar alcohols (you can look them up),
- Synthetic sugars...
- Pretty much any name that ends in -ose or -ol will be a sugar compound or a sugar alcohol derivative.
Many of these compounds, more than 80% of them have been proven to cause hepatic damage in the long term, will trigger your insulin levels even if you think that lowering the caloric value is important, that doesn't have anything to do with the damage and effect that they can cause in your membrane receptors.
Let's say that all of these artificial sweeteners enter or access your receptors by hacking the key and using an alternate access point, which is located right besides one of your main glucose transporter channels, GLUT-2, these alternative access points are known as T1R2 and T1R3, these entry points as being beside the GLUT-2 entry point that is mainly the one for glucose and fructose will indirectly stimulate the access of more glucose and fructose from your cells that will lead to a cascade effect that will release more metabolic and hormone chemicals that will stimulate your sensors to crave more sugars, to trick your brain into feeling hunger even though you ate well and your body knows you're satisfied!.
All of these cascade of chemicals and this loop that is forming eventually will start to have a consequence in the threshold that your brain receptors need to be stimulated, meaning you will start craving much more sweets than the ones that you used to!
Researchers and data have strongly argued that hyperpalatable foods rich in added sugar and/or fat could be genuinely addictive, at least in a significant proportion of exposed people [12,13]. One currently estimates that about 10 – 20% of people would present addiction-like symptoms toward hyperpalatable foods, a proportion that is not different from the proportion of cocaine or heroin users who go on to develop addiction (1).
People are as ill prepared biologically to foods high in added sugar and/or fat, as they are to drugs in pure or highly concentrated form . In this regard, the ubiquity, ready availability, and affordability of those foods make them a serious modern hazard to public health (1).
Foods high in sugar can also change brain activity but via more natural routes than drugs of abuse. They can change brain activity, first, via the stimulation of specialized sweet taste cells in the mouth (and in the gut) and, second, via postabsorptive brain mechanisms involving glucose signaling he latter being the most drug-like (1).
Nevertheless, people now often report seeking and consuming sweet foods for their drug-like psycho- active and mood-altering effects. They eat sweet foods to experience highly rewarding sensations, to cope with stress (e.g., stress or comfort eating), pain or fatigue, to enhance cognition and/or to ameliorate bad mood (e.g., relief of negative affect). This anecdotal evidence is also confirmed by research in different populations (e.g., adolescents at risk to develop depression; obese women) showing that sweet foods can indeed elicit different desirable drug-like psychoactive effects, including affective comfort and alleviation of depressed mood (1).
Recent findings using positron emission tomography (PET) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in humans have supported the idea that aberrant eating behaviors, including those observed in obesity, may have similarities to drug dependence. Craving-related changes in fMRI signal have been identified in response to palatable foods similar to drug craving. This overlap occurred in the hippocampus, insula, and caudate (2).
Similarly, PET scans reveal that obese subjects show a reduction in striatal D2 receptor availability that is associated with the body weight of the subject. This decrease in D2 receptors in obese subjects is similar in magnitude to the reductions reported in drug-addicted subjects. The involvement of the DA system in reward and reinforcement has led to the hypothesis that alterations in DA activity in obese subjects dispose them to excessive use of food. Exposure to especially palatable foods, such as cake and ice cream, activates the several brain regions including the anterior insula and right orbitofrontal cortex, which may underlie the motivation to procure food (2).
As depicted by several research sources, addiction areas and stimulation of sugary foods is very similar to drugs such as cocaine and heroin, even when the effects in the brain are not as disastrous as those drugs, there's evidence of brain damage in some of the receptors availability for dopamine as well as the increase in the threshold levels for many others.
Moreover many of these neural targets picked by sugar and derivatives mentioned above will with time start deteriorating your memory, predisposing you to be more distracted, altering your sleep patterns, promoting anxiety and depression neurotransmitters and hormones as well as little by little also disrupting your hunger hormone profiles such as insulin and leptin which control the usage of your glucose and energetic compounds, trigger your sensors to start "depositing" energy as toxic fat as well as occluding your satiety signals in your brain producing the effect of not being full in addition to crave more of the same foods!
All of this evidence is not to create panic in you, but to allow you to have the real effects and decide if you'd like to continue on the same path, stepping down from this kind of tendency to eat those kind of foods is pretty much as a detoxifying process for any kind of drug.
Then, What are the solutions and alternatives to stop consuming, craving or bingeing these kind of "toxic foods"?
Well as mentioned you'll have to gradually start reducing the amount of sugar products such as any kind of sweets, chocolates high in sugar, cookies, ice creams, and kind of sweet bread or cakes.
Then you continue with the liquids as well, sodas, sugar added beverages, and reducing the amount of sugar you use in your regular drinks, i.e. if you take two/three spoons sugar or packets in your coffee, start reducing to 1.5 or 2.5 for the next two weeks, then reduce to 1 or 1.5 and so on .
In the case of any dressings, pasta sauces and meat sauces which sometimes contain as much as 46g per 100 mL of product, also start lowering the mount of sauce you use up to the point that if needed you probably add a spoon of these.
The easier way to detoxify successfully for any kind of food addiction is also to stop buying the products and if you have a strong will, start throwing to the garbage all of these kind of sugary foods.
In summary, sugar addiction is real, is happening, is being promoted as you read, and food industry knows exactly how to calculate your sweet spot to lead you to buy more and consume more as it is their business. Therefore don't fall and stay away from foods claiming to be "healthy" or "fat free" or "sugar free" as that is the best way of companies to manipulate you into thinking you're eating healthier.
Start adopting a more responsible and long term mentality to avoid all these kinds of products. Be realistic with the goals and objectives that you're setting in terms of the detachment from these cravings and addiction and take it at your pace but be constant and diligent to finally set a date where you really enjoy the health that you, your brain, your body and your whole inner system needs!
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1. Avena, N. M., Rada, P., & Hoebel, B. G. (2008). Evidence for sugar addiction: behavioral and neurochemical effects of intermittent, excessive sugar intake. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 32(1), 20-39.
2. Ahmed, S. H., Guillem, K., & Vandaele, Y. (2013). Sugar addiction: pushing the drug-sugar analogy to the limit. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care, 16(4), 434-439.