Sugar Critics Still Going Strong


The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture says the average American eats 150 pounds of sugar per year (see illustration). People who care about the childhood obesity epidemic never run out of things to say about sugar. William Dufty’s classic Sugar Blues was published way back in 1975. In 2003, Neal D. Barnard wrote about Johns Hopkins University research on newborn infants:

The researchers dribbled tiny amounts of sugar water into babies’ mouths, finding that it made them cry noticeably less and blunted their reactions to the heel sticks used to draw blood samples, while plain water did nothing. What is happening is this: As sugar touches the tongue, the taste buds send a nerve impulse to the brain, causing opiates to be released. In turn, these opiates trigger the release of dopamine, the brain’s ultimate pleasure chemical.

Dr. Pretlow has written about the unnecessarily sugary baby formulas. If there is such a thing as a “gateway drug,” it’s sugar, and we start children on the road to addiction from Day One. Our whole society acts like it took an oath to aid and abet sugar addiction in kids. If you want to see what it looks like, take a gander at “Inside a Food Addict’s Brain,” which features colorful MRI brain scans in an ABC News video clip. Yikes!.

Nancy Appleton, author of Suicide by Sugar and Killer Colas, has compiled more than 140 ways in which sugar is bad for people. Zoe Harcombe tells us that that our minds have cravings for the same foods our bodies are intolerant of, and that we are coerced into craving sugar by the Candida bacteria or yeast growing in our digestive systems. Pulitzer Prize-winning Michael Moss, an investigative reporter for The New York Times, has a book coming out soon that will be simply and eloquently titled Salt, Sugar, Fat.

In hospitals, they give kids sugar as an anesthetic. Gretchen Cuda Kroen reports on the intrinsic nature of our overwhelming desire for sugar, and also on the work of Sue Coldwell of the University of Washington:

Coldwell says that one important clue lies in the discovery that growing bones actually secrete hormones that can influence metabolism. Other well-known metabolic hormones like leptin and insulin have been shown to act on brain areas that control cravings and appetites, and even directly bind to the tongue, where they affect the preference for sweet tastes. Coldwell suspects that hormones from growing bones may be doing the same thing. In other words, it’s not your kid’s fault he raided the cookie jar — the hormones from his growing bones made him do it.

The research team wanted to find out just when the inborn attraction to sugar abates, and has found that kids who are still growing prefer sweets, while those who have reached their full growth at around 15 or 16 years of age will have “taste preferences similar to adults.” But why then are so many adults still unable to resist sugar? Could it be because a preference can turn into an addiction, and often does?

This is why Jill Escher, author of Farewell, Club Perma-Chub, became coordinator for the new Sugar Addiction Awareness Day, which we will be talking about more as Halloween approaches. Escher wants to see the end of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes, which have all reached epidemic proportions thanks to what she defines as a compulsion syndrome focused on sugar, carbohydrates, and refined food. She very much wants people to understand the seriousness of the issue, and speaks in a very definitive and positive way, saying:

Refined sugar, the addictive cycle it creates, and diseases of high blood sugar are now so commonplace we’re blinded to the strangeness of it all. But the day we take Sugar Addiction seriously is the day we finally turn the obesity and diabetes epidemics around.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The Food Fix Is In,” Orlando Sentinal, 07/13/03
Source: “Part 5: MRI brain scans show addictive reactions when a patient is given sugar.,” ABC News
Source: “Kids’ Sugar Cravings Might Be Biological,” NPR’s The Salt, 09/26/11
Source: “About SAAD,”
Modified image by Oskay (Windell Oskay), used under its Creative Commons license.

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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