PITTSBURGH — With the holidays almost here, most of us will, no doubt, be eating more sweets and treats. But you might want to be careful about just how much you consume.
Studies show sugar can be just as addictive as drugs and some scientists say as much as eight times more addictive than cocaine. The more you eat, the more you want!
Sugar is not just bad for your body. The latest research shows it’s bad for your brain, too, potentially contributing to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Consumer Investigator Angie Moreschi takes a look at the dangers of sugar and what you can do to break the sugar habit.
Kicking the Sugar Habit
Natalie Raitano is a fitness instructor and actress, best known for her role in V.I.P. with Pamela Anderson in the late ‘90s and early 2000s.
This past year, Raitano moved back to her hometown of Charleroi, after years of living in Hollywood and New York.
Both of her parents contracted COVID-19, and she needed to help take care of them through their recovery.
“Both my parents were very sick. So, we were just glued to the TV and eating!” she said.
Like so many people during the pandemic, they turned to comfort foods, especially sugary treats.
As a fitness instructor and actress in top physical condition, Raitano was always careful about how much sugar she consumed, but once she started, it was hard to stop. She ended up gaining about 10-to-15 pounds.
“The more you eat. The more you want,” she said, remembering those days during quarantine.
If you’ve got a consumer issue that you’d like Angie to investigate, contact her at email@example.com.
Research shows eating sugar can be as addictive as taking drugs.
It leads to a pleasure response in your brain, creating a release of dopamine — the foundation of cravings and addictive behavior. Unfortunately, those good feelings don’t last.
“I felt terrible. I just felt gross, lethargic, terrible about what I looked like, and your body changes form,” Raitano said about her sugar-binging days.
Celebrity Nutritionist Dr. Daryl Gioffre says he is a reformed sugar addict and writes about the dangers of sugar. His book Get Off Your Sugar discusses just how addictive sugar is and what it does to your body.
“Sugar is literally 8 times more addictive to your body than cocaine,” Gioffre said. “It’s not even a food. I call it America’s drug of choice.”
Gioffre says sugar creates massive inflammation in the body and brain, a by-product of how it is metabolized into lactic acid. In turn, he says that inflammation is linked to many chronic diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, quoting a recent study presented for the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in July.
“Diabetes is obviously a big one,” he explained. “But other diseases, such as heart disease, even cancer, and Alzheimer’s — which is now being called type-3 diabetes of the brain.”
The American Heart Association suggests a limit of about six teaspoons of added sugar a day for women and nine teaspoons for men; but the “average American” consumes about 17 a day.
If you’re like most of us, you probably consume way more sugar than you realize. There are the obvious sources — cookies, candy, ice-cream, soft drinks, etc. But sugar is also found in foods you might think are healthy — like yogurt, granola, and fruit drinks; and things you might not even suspect have sugar — like soups, bread, salad dressing, and alcohol, just to name a few.
That means consumers have to be on the lookout for hidden sugar on product labels. There are actually about 60 different names for sugar used on food labels. (See below for list of 60 NAMES FOR SUGAR)
“You’re not going to see sugar as the number one ingredient. You’re going to see something like dextrose or maltose or sucrose. If the word ends in ‘ose’ that equals sugar,” Gioffre explained.
When it comes to breaking the sugar habit, Gioffre says one of the worst things you can do is to go ‘cold turkey.’
Instead of depriving yourself, he says start by making healthy substitutes for sugary foods.
“As you add the good, overtime, what you’ll find is the good is going to outweigh the bad. So you’re not even going to realize you’re getting off of sugar,” he explained.
He recommends eating foods rich in fiber, healthy fats, and minerals, especially magnesium — like avocados, coconut oil, broccoli, pure cocoa, nuts, and seeds.
For breakfast, he says one of the worst things you can drink is orange juice.
“Orange juice, calorie for calorie, has more fructose in it than cola!” he said. “A better swap would be water, and add some lemon, cucumber, or lime.”
Break the Sugar Habit
That’s what Raitano did to break her sugar habit. She started eating more greens, and healthy fats, like avocados; and after a few weeks, starting feeling a difference.
“I felt so much better. I felt clear. I felt in the present moment and I definitely had way more energy and my mood was much happier, “she said.
And for those times when sugar cravings hit, she came up with creative, healthy substitutes, like watermelon sprinkled with cinnamon (which we can confirm is quite tasty!).
“Especially at night, when you get the sugar munchies, this is a great substitute,” she said, taking a big bite.
Gioffre says if you take the approach of adding healthy foods, instead of just taking away sugary foods, your body will naturally start craving sugar less.
“If we start to add more of these foods that strengthen our body, instead of stress our body, it’s going to get us off the stress eating roller coaster, and help us to gain energy, burn fat, and most importantly lower the inflammation that’s causing all these horrific chronic diseases,” he explained.
Raitano is back down to her svelte Hollywood weight and teaches remote fitness classes from her home in Charleroi, offering exercise and daily motivation to her loyal followers.
“Once you feel better, it’s going to empower you,” Raitano said. “It’s going to make you crave that more!”
60 NAMES FOR SUGAR
As you take a bite out of your sugar intake, be sure to read those labels. Here’s a list of 61 other names for sugar to look for:
- Agave nectar
- Barbados sugar
- Barley malt
- Barley malt syrup
- Beet sugar
- Brown sugar
- Buttered syrup
- Cane juice
- Cane juice crystals
- Cane sugar
- Carob syrup
- Castor sugar
- Coconut palm sugar
- Coconut sugar
- Confectioner’s sugar
- Corn sweetener
- Corn syrup
- Corn syrup solids
- Date sugar
- Dehydrated cane juice
- Demerara sugar
- Evaporated cane juice
- Free-flowing brown sugars
- Fruit juice
- Fruit juice concentrate
- Glucose solids
- Golden sugar
- Golden syrup
- Grape sugar
- HFCS (High-Fructose Corn Syrup)
- Icing sugar
- Invert sugar
- Malt syrup
- Maple syrup
- Palm sugar
- Powdered sugar
- Raw sugar
- Refiner’s syrup
- Rice syrup
- Sorghum Syrup
- Sugar (granulated)
- Sweet Sorghum
- Turbinado sugar
- Yellow sugar
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