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Poison, Thy Name is Sugar! Part 2

Does consuming too much sugar effect mental health? The case for limiting sugar to improve the human brain.

One should eat to live, not live to eat. (Benjamin Franklin) 

Part 2 

The notion of is not a new idea. In the 1975 best seller Sugar Blues, author William Dufty makes the case that sugar is an addictive drug and extremely harmful to the human body. The book paints a conspiracy theory by the sugar industry to keep Americans addicted to sugar, and misrepresents the health and safety data of its products to consumers. And from the statistics showing a rapid, steady increase in overall obesity and chronic diseases among children and adults in developed countries (due in part to sugar), Dufty was right. The book also suggests that eliminating refined sugar from the diet of institutionalized mental illness sufferers could be a successful treatment for some.

As related in the Psychology Today article, Dietary Sugar and Mental Illness: A Surprising Link  by Stephen Llardi, PhD., noted British psychiatric researcher Malcolm Peet conducted a cross-cultural investigation of the relationship between diet and mental illness. According to the study, there is a “strong link between high sugar consumption and the risk of both depression and schizophrenia.” The study further identified two possible mechanisms by which intake of refined sugar might wield poisonous effects on mental health.

  1. sugar suppresses activity of a key growth hormone responsible for neuron health and preservation in the brain, which plays a vital role in memory function.
  2. sugar consumption triggers a cascade of chemical reactions in the body that promote chronic inflammation causing mayhem to the brain leading to greater risk of depression and schizophrenia.

The report continues by stating that mental illness often leads to shrinkage of key brain regions over time and that chronic depression “actually leads to brain damage.” The reports conclusion: eating refined sugar and other overly processed molecular relatives such as 'high fructose corn syrup' may encourage mental illnesses in susceptible individuals. This brings to mind the infamous 1978 “Twinkie defense.”

Of course, personal freedom offers the right to decide for oneself. But if you suffer from even a slight depression and feel cutting down on sugar consumption might help, you will have to read between the lines. Even "healthy foods" such as yogurt and instant oatmeal can pack in 20-30 grams (5-7 teaspoons) of hidden, unnecessary added sugar. Catsup, flavored creamers, breads, crackers, soups, and countless other processed foods are teeming with sugar under different names:

  • Sucrose
  • Fructose
  • Lactose
  • Sorbitol 
  • Barley malt 
  • Beet sugar 
  • Brown sugar 
  • Cane-juice crystals
  • Dextrose
  • Molasses

....the list is endless and purposely confusing. 

But to definitively identify sugar’s true effect of overall health and wellness is a near impossible task. As an online article by Heidi Boudro summarizes; “The effects of refined sugar are actually quite obvious, but our view is obscured because our culture has been involved with sugar for hundreds of years. We have nothing to compare it to--no control group without sugar. Without the escalation of sugar consumption over the last hundred years, we might not be able to see it at all. We're left with comparing our degenerative diseases with our considerably more hardy grandparents and our considerably more impaired children.”

So the next time you blame your penchant for sugary treats as “having a sweet tooth,” shake it off, resist temptation, grab a piece of sugarless gum, go for a walk, and remember the words of William Shakespeare, “Hide not thy poison with such sugar'd words”…leave that to the international sugar cartels.

(NOTE: In the upcoming epilogue, we will examine a four-step plan to help de-sugar your life and introduce whole foods sources to help conquer the sweet allure of “white gold.”)

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Tom Brody February 20, 2012 at 05:54 PM
CONTINUED. Aside from the banana slug (mentioned above), it is evident that Mother Nature uses blindingly bright colors to advertise her insidious parcels of packaged sugar. (By the way, I do agree with you regarding children being hooked by sugar being dressed up in the guise of breakfast cereal. Whenever I see a parent in line at the grocery, with a box of Frosted Sugar Puffs, or whatever, I feel like giving them a lecture about the amino acids found in grain, and about the fact that most of what they are paying for in the Frosted Sugar Puffs, is sugar (which contains no amino acids at all.)
Dede Tabor February 20, 2012 at 07:35 PM
Mother Nature is a true artist and offers up bounties of beautiful edibles. I'll eat fancy French snails but leave banana slugs to serve as college mascots. Thanks for pointing out all the vivid lusciousness of healthy options!
Randy Briggs March 06, 2012 at 11:51 PM
Tom, you've lost the sweet joust. If you are bitter in the heart, sugar in the mouth won't help you. Dede is a wise one, a great personal trainer and one who puts a touch of sugar into all she says to a guy (especially one fond of banana slugs)...and takes a grain of salt with most he says to her. After all what are personal trainer girls made of...Sugar and spice and all things nice, of course.
Tom Brody March 07, 2012 at 01:20 AM
Further information on our processing of dietary sugars can be found in my book, Nutritional Biochemistry (1006 pages) Academic Press/Elsevier. Additional information on conducting experiments in nutrition or pharmacology can be found in my other book, Clinical Trials (650 pages), Academic Press/Elsevier.
Tom Brody March 07, 2012 at 01:52 AM
From the information in these two books, it should be easy to plan a nutrition clinical trial, and to gain approval from an ethics committee, for enrolling human subjects. The control group will be fed a "healthy" diet consisting of steamed broccoli, tofu sandwiches on whole grain yeast-leavened bread, iron-enriched oatmeal, and microfiltrated water. The experimental group will be fed Twinkies, red licorice vines, Jujubes (to ensure dental health), and strawberry Kool-Aid.

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