Sugar highjacks the brain in a similar manner to that of cocaine or nicotine.

The dopamine released when we eat sugar-laced foods stimulates our brain via dopamine receptors. When sugar-rich foods are often eaten or in large quantities, these receptors become desensitized. To get the same pleasurable experience, we have to ingest even more sugar.

Additionally, a recent study in mice shows that the calories in sugar stimulate a different area of the brain’s reward center. When this location in the brain is stimulated, the animals want to eat more and more. Sugar provides a double whammy, and our altered brain chemistry can ultimately lead to full-blown sugar addiction with the associated ill-effects of binge eating, sugar-craving, withdrawal symptoms, and other-addictive-substance susceptibility.

Dr. Robert Lustig, a leading voice sounding the sugar alarm says “No one can exert cognitive inhibition, will power, over a biochemical drive that goes on every minute, of every day, of every year.”

What the sugar industry knew and when they knew it

The addictive nature of sugar is not the only problem. The public is under a total frontal assault from a consortium of players—the sugar industry, established nutrition scientists, the food industry, and the very institution supposedly watching out for us—the federal government.

Recently uncovered internal documents disclose a systematic campaign by the sugar industry to convince the public that sugar is an essential nutrient for a healthy diet.

In the 1950’s, the sugar industry launched a major campaign to promote the use of sugar. The campaign focused on three targets—research, information, and legislative programs. The sugar industry funded a Harvard research study to “prove” fat (rather than sugar or tobacco) as the major contributing factor to heart disease. This research was used to draft the USDA’s first nutritional guidelines recommending a low-fat diet.

Since that time, in spite of evidence to the contrary, this belief has become entrenched as settled science. Data correlating heart disease to sugar consumption has been overlooked or ignored, or worse—researchers coming to contrary conclusions have been punished by both the research establishment and the sugar industry.

Public policy has also played a role in shaping the American diet. Annually, the US government provides millions of dollars in subsidies to both sugar and corn producers. These subsidies create an artificial market. The federal government establishes production controls to manage market prices. However, when the market price falls below a set minimum price, the government buys processed sugar stocks at that minimum price. As a result, American families end up paying higher sugar prices.

Farm subsidies to the corn industry are paid directly to the farmer in the form of a guaranteed price. Consequently, the farmer is incentivized to overproduce.  Global corn prices are driven down. An ancillary effect of lower corn prices has been an increased use of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in the food industry.

Sugar Addiction - 10% of farms receive 75% of federal subsidiesSince 1995, 10 percent of the farms growing these crops have received 75 percent of the federal subsidies. This relatively small group of crop growers appears to have a disproportionate share of political influence.

Overall, these subsidies contribute to lower costs in sugar-laden processed foods vs. natural, healthy, fresh fruits and vegetable alternatives. Food processors add sugar, fat, and salt to make processed foods more palatable. Taste combined with lower cost and convenience makes processed food almost irresistible. Currently,  Americans spend 90% of their food budget on processed food.

Whether collusion or not, the result of the sugar onslaught has been a steady increase in the consumption of added sugars among adults (30% between 1977-2010) and children (20% in the same timeframe). The rise in obesity and diabetes has increased steadily during the same period. The CDC estimates obesity and diabetes cost the U.S. healthcare system $1 billion per day.

What we do know is that for over 60 years, the sugar industry has suppressed the relationship between sugar and tooth decay, obesity, and chronic diseases and has paid for research and publicity to divert attention to other “causes.”

Is this a big tobacco moment for the sugar industry?  Bold Business encourages you to be the judge.

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