Sugar is like a drug, and you and your kids, are consuming too much of it.

The FDA is implementing a new nutrition label by July of 2018, but few nutritionists think it will help because Americans are too dumb for it to do any good, and it may not be entirely their fault. Beyond that the new labels are being delayed because of a dispute over what can be considered fiber.

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The WSJ reports that in the 1960’s the sugar industry paid scientists to shift blame from sugar to fat. Sugar industry internal documents were recently uncovered by a University of California San Francisco researcher, and published in the JAMA Internal Medicine.

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

And, the trade group, the Sugar Research Foundation, today known as the Sugar Association paid three Harvard scientists nearly $50,000 by today’s standards to minimize the connection between sugar and heart disease, while promoting fat as the villain instead.

“It was a very smart thing the sugar industry did, because review papers, especially if you get them published in a very prominent journal, tend to shape the overall scientific discussion,” Glatz said.

The result is that for decades health officials prompted Americans to reduce their fat intake, which may have fueled the obesity crisis and led people to consume low-fat, high sugar foods.

Changes on the new label

Manufacturers will have the new label in place by July 26, 2018, and it won’t change much, but it will reflect serving sizes people are likely to eat instead of what a label says they should eat. First Lady Michelle Obama, through her “Let’s Move”, initiative said,

“Very soon you will no longer need a microscope, a calculator or a degree in nutrition to figure out whether the food that you’re buying is actually good for your kids, so that’s a phenomenal achievement”.

It must take a microscope, and a calculator. Interesting, since my fifth grader can do the math to determine calories versus servings.
Source: FDA

The new label is fairly simple. Some information is bigger and bolder, like assumed consumption, caloric intake, and added sugar. The label reveals what’s really inside the product being consumed and allows for a more aware consumer, if he or she reads the label.

A valuable change is in the portion sizes. Before, guesswork was required to determine a single serving from an 8 serving bag, for example. A big grab bag of chips may have more than one serving. The new label portions adjust for likely serving portions. If I buy a big grab bag of chips, I am unlikely to stop eating them until I’ve reached the bottom of the bag, regardless how many servings are on the label. Likewise for the rarity that I drink a soda to go along with lunch. A can of soda is a 12 oz. serving, regardless what the label says. The new label will reflect a likely portion of consumption, and display 1 serving for items that are often consumed in a single setting. Who determines a serving? The FDA, of course.

The new changes are part of the FDA’s movement to update the definition of healthy and present a modern, easier to read label. Added sugars will also be added on the label. Added sugars are additional sugars that are added when foods and beverages are processed and prepared. They are add-ins, not sugars that naturally occur, as in fruit.

Wake up America, sugar acts like a drug. It’s time to detox. Depending on where you look, Americans are eating 3 times, 4 times, or even more sugar than they should be each day. The FDA issues new guidelines, either because it has a head’s up on the whistle blowing that (whoa!) sugar is bad for us, or because it is attempting to come around to consumers’ awareness of the damage done to people’s bodies by sugar. It’s about time since the current guidelines are more than 20 years outdated. I wrote about the impetus behind the change here and here.

The FDA breaks down the sugar cap into daily portions for different demographics. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons for women, 9 teaspoons for men, and between 3-6 teaspoons for children. That’s 25 grams, 38 grams, and 12-25 grams respectively.

Yet, the average American consumes nearly 20 teaspoons a day. It is no surprise that a single candy bar, or a soda puts a person over the daily limit, but some health food like salad dressing and yogurt is also too much. And, sugar isn’t the only culprit, it is also food that breaks down into sugar like potatoes and breads. Federal guidelines suggest no more than 10% of daily calories to be sugar, and Americans push the limit to 16% or more.

Why is sugar a cause for concern?

Here are 5 reasons:

  1. Food addictions satisfy the medical definition for drug addiction
  2. Junk foods flood the brain with dopamine
  3. Junk foods light up the same areas as drugs of abuse
  4. Lab animals can switch from drugs to sugar, and vice versa
  5. Abstaining can lead to withdrawal symptoms

Defining addiction

The National Institute on Drug Abuse: Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain; they change its structure and how it works.

Wikipedia: A food addiction or eating addiction is a behavioral addiction that is characterized by the compulsive consumption of palatable (e.g., high fat and high sugar) foods – the types of food which markedly activate the reward system in humans and other animals – despite adverse consequences.

Similar enough to raise an eyebrow? Similar enough to cause concern for what Grandma feeds the kids on Mom and Dad’s night out? What about sugary treats over the holidays, or at a birthday party? Similar enough … to drugs?

Junk food, dopamine, and drugs

Excessive sugary treats and highly processed foods that give the body a surge of energy, or cause the kids to act erratically, flood the system with a chemical called dopamine. We interpret the chemical as pleasurable and want to repeat the act over and over again.

Life would be dull if we didn’t experience dopamine on occasion, and it reacts like a drug in people who are most susceptible to it. Opioids are substances that act on brain receptors to produce morphine-like effects. Sugar has some effects on the opioid pathways in the brain in the same way as heroin and morphine.

This is your brain on sugar and drugs. Any questions?


Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

If you are still confused about how much of a drug sugar is this video may help.

Lab animals cross-sensualize

Cross sensitization means that people addicted to substances can easily switch from one addiction to another.

Studies agree that lab rats cross-sensitize from drugs to sugar, and back again.

It is a strong argument that sugar and junk foods are addictive.

Abstaining & Detoxing

If you are ready to abstain from sugar there are plenty of methods to help.

Here’s a 3 day, and a 21 day detox. The withdrawal symptoms, headaches, and cravings are likely to disappear within a few days. During this time slow carbs are friendly helpers to slow release sugar into the bloodstream.

Here’s a government program that may send Americans a healthier direction. The government wants to give low-income Americans discounts for choosing healthier food options through its Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Nearly 15% of Americans believe health food is expensive, and out of reach of low-income people. The government may be looking to offset future healthcare expenses of Medicare and Medicaid by improving healthier food choices through SNAP earlier. That’s a “We the People” win!

Dr. Marlene Schwartz, Director of the University of Connecticut Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity said:

“Improving diet, even at an additional cost, might help reduce healthcare costs down the road”.

Detox from sugar. You’ll be glad you did.

How much sugar do you, your family, or your children consume on a daily basis? Please comment below.


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