The Relationship Between Sugar and Poor Health

Personal Testament

I am intimately acquainted with the extreme problem of sugar addiction. In the autumn of 1994, I was diagnosed with Systemic Candidiasis and Environmental Illness. The remedy was a sugar free diet, in which I was directed to eliminate sugar in every form--refined carbohydrates, yeast breads, fermented products, alcohol, etceteras--even fruit for the first six months. Since I had already lost 40 pounds in muscle mass due to the illness, I was very motivated to adopt the diet.

Little did I know how difficult that would be. Over the next three weeks, I experienced irritability, headaches, moodiness, sweating, nightmares, insomnia, the sensation of bugs crawling on my skin. Having worked with drug-addicted youths, I knew exactly what was going on: I was experiencing the symptoms of withdrawal from drug addiction, and the drug was sugar!!

Fortunately, the remedy began to work. One month into the sugar-free diet, I began to recover muscle strength and mental clarity. Six months into the diet, I had regained my normal level of strength and mental clarity. One year into it, I had the energy like a ten years old boy. Unbelievable. Instead of quitting the diet, I continued on for two years because I felt so good.

The following 4-minute video clearly demonstrates what happens to our blood when we have consumed sugar.

Sugar Addiction

Wikipedia is the source of the information that follows.

Sugar addiction is the term for the relationship between sugar and the various aspects of food addiction including: bingeing, withdrawal, craving and cross-sensitization. Some scientists assert that consumption of sweets or sugar could have a heroin addiction like effect.[1]

A 1987 study showed sugar acted as an analgesic drug whose effects could be blocked by a morphine blocker.[2] In her 1998 book, author Kathleen DesMaisons outlined the concept of sugar addiction as a measurable physiological state caused by activation of opioid receptors in the brain and hypothesized that dependence on sugar followed the same track outlined in the DSM IV for other drugs of abuse.[3]

Fifteen years later, 2002 research at Princeton began showing the neurochemical effects of sugar, noting that sugar might serve as a gateway drug for other drugs.[1] The research group fed chow to the rats as well as a 25% sugar solution similar to the sugar concentration of soft drinks. After one month the rats became "dependent" on the sugar solution, ate less chow and increased their intake of the sugary drink to 200%.[4] The sugar industry asserts that similar effects have been reported for rats given solutions that tasted sweet, but contained no calories.[citation needed] However, some scientists say that caloric value may not be the issue. Researchers say that sugar and the taste of sweet is said to stimulate the brain by activating beta endorphin receptor sites, the same chemicals activated in the brain by the ingestion of heroin and morphine.[5]

In 2003, a report commissioned by two U.N. agencies at the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization was compiled by a panel of 30 international experts. It recommended that sugar not account for more than 10% of a person's diet.[6] However, the U.S. Sugar Association asserted that other evidence indicates that a quarter of our food and drink intake can safely consist of sugar.

Finally, a 2008 study noted that sugar affects opioids and dopamine in the brain, and thus might be expected to have addictive potential. It referenced bingeing, withdrawal, craving and cross-sensitization, and gave each of them operational definitions in order to demonstrate behaviorally that sugar bingeing is a reinforcer. These behaviors were said to be related to neurochemical changes in the brain that also occur during addiction to drugs. Neural adaptations included changes in dopamine and opioid receptor binding, enkephalin mRNA expression and dopamine and acetylcholine release in the nucleus accumbens.[1][7][8]


    1. a b c Avena, Nicole M.; Rada, Pedro and Hoebel, Bartley G. "Evidence for sugar addiction: behavioral and neurochemical effects of intermittent, excessive sugar intake". Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 2008;32(1):20-39. Epub 2007 May 18.

    2. Blass, E., E. Fitzgerald, and P. Kehoe, Interactions between sucrose, pain and isolation distress. Pharmacol Biochem Behav, 1987. 26(3): p. 483-9.

    3. DesMaisons, Kathleen (1998). Potatoes Not Prozac. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 1-4165-5615-X.

    4. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter.New York:OCT 2002. Vol.20, Iss. 8; Pg.1,3 pgs. [1]

    5. Yamamoto, Takashi (May 2003). "Brain mechanisms of sweetness and palatability of sugars". Nutrition Reviews 61 (Supplement S5): S5-S9. PMID 12828186.

    6. World Health Organization, 3 March 2003, WHO/FAO release independent Expert Report on diet and chronic disease. Accessed 2012-08-02.

    7. MacPherson, Kitta "Sugar can be addictive, Princeton scientist says". News at Princeton, Current Stories, 10 December 2008.

    8. Cox, David "Students: just say no to sugar". Theguardian - News - Education- Students - Blogging students, 18 March 2013.

The Relationship Between Sugar and Poor Mental Health

The over-consumption of refined sugar is the source of many physical health problems, such dental cavities, obesity, binge eating, diabetes (caused by a compromised insulin regulation system), inflamation of the nervous system, weakening of the immune system and more. This knowledge is commonly accepted. What is not commonly known is that the over-cosnsumption of refined sugar is the source of mental health issues, too, such as mood dysregulation, aggravation of ADHD and ADD, bouts of enervation and foggy cognition, irritability, memory lapses, decreased mental and physical ability to deal with stress, schizophrenia and depression. The following article by T.M. Hartle speaks to the point:

A cross-cultural analysis published in the British Journal of Psychiatry found a strong correlation between refined sugar consumption and mental illness. Researchers found that a high national intake of refined sugar and dairy products predicted a higher incidence of schizophrenia and depression. Research published in Neuroscience in 2002 found a high fat, high sugar diet reduces a key growth hormone in the brain necessary for memory and learning. Research into the correlation between diet and mental illness is finally expanding. This new research is shedding much needed light on the reality that diet does play a role in the incidence of mental illness.

The most provocative finding in the cross-cultural analysis was the consistent connection between refined sugar intake and worse outcomes for schizophrenia and increased prevalence of depression. Researchers also found that consumption of pulses or whole grains and high consumption of starchy root vegetables were linked to a lower prevalence of schizophrenia and depression. The connection between dietary habits and mental illness was not seen with healthy carbohydrate consumption but strongly correlated with refined sugar consumption. Sugar consumption causes a cascade of physiological effects that may explain the increased prevalence of mental illness.

Refined sugar consumption suppresses brain-derived neurotrophic factor or BDNF, an important growth hormone in the brain. This growth hormone is extremely important for the health of neurons in the brain. BDNF triggers new connections between neurons in the brain which is crucial for memory function. Studies have shown low BDNF levels in patients with depression and schizophrenia. The consumption of refined sugar has the potential to exacerbate depression and schizophrenia by contributing to low BDNF levels.

Refined sugar is notorious for causing increased inflammation in the body. Regular consumption of refined sugar can lead to chronic inflammation which can disrupt immune system functioning. Chronic inflammation is implicated in arthritis, some forms of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease among many other illnesses. Chronic inflammation has also been linked to a higher risk of depression and schizophrenia. Psychologists who have become aware of the recent research on sugar and mental illness have begun recommending sugar free diets to patients.

Dr. IIardi, associate professor of psychology at the University of Kansas, stated that he has encouraged depressed patients to remove refined sugar and refined foods from their diets. Patients who were willing to comply to these recommendations reported significant improvements in mental clarity, mood and energy. Research and patient experiences indicate that a diet high in whole grains and low in refined foods and sugar can provide significant improvement in mental health, clarity and reduced risk of mental illness.

Information Source: Hartle, T.M. (June 2011); Researchers discover link between sugar consumption and mental illness; (

The Relationship Between Sugar and Poor Physical Health

The following 15-minute video addresses health issues with sugar consumption.

The following video, Sugar: The Bitter Truth, is a 90-minute lecture given by Dr. Robert Lustig at the University of California, Berkely, about the health risks, economics and politics of sugar. This video is a very important overview of the problem of sugar. (Also, there is an excellent documentary, called Sugar Coated, by Michèle Hozer that draws on the work of Dr. Lustig and other researchers that is less academic and more engaging. You can view it on Netflix.)

Write Your Representative: Tax Sugar

Based upon this information, it is fair to say that sugar is the gateway drug universally consumed in North America and in many other industrialized regions of the world. In order to reclaim ultimate health, both physically and mentally, we need to break the addiction. I believe that sugar use should be higly taxed to discourage its use and to help subsidize community health clinics.

If you would like to schedule an appointment, then e-mail Carl Golden anytime or call (206) 778-4465 between 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time (PST).

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