Should Sugar Be the Boss of Us?

sugar lumps

Jennifer Walker is an actor, photographer, and writer of lively posts online. Walker realized that she was addicted to sugar, and partway into a monthlong sugar fast, reflected on the mind-body connection:

From what I’ve read, I need to find something that swings my serotonin up without consuming the sweet little additives. Like all addictive substances, sugar raises your serotonin levels. When they drop, the body looks for the item that raises it, sending out ‘feed me’ signals… Then you have dopamine playing mind games with you as well. I have my dopamine talking sweetly to me about how good that sugar will taste and if I don’t reward myself I feel sad. That’s the way dopamine operates.

One of Walker’s blog posts is a useful comprehensive list of all the different names that sugar hides under in food ingredients.

Another explains in complete detail the complex interactions between sugar and the human body, and contains her remarks after nearly a month of trying to totally eliminate the substance from her diet:

As I look more and more into the effects sugar has on body, I find that I crave it less. Sugar is highly addictive and it was hard to break the habit at first, but I am definitely glad that my pancreas only has to deal with natural sugars for awhile. I’m sure it is glad for the vacation.

Comedian George Carlin, discussing the “gateway” theory of drug addiction, once said:

Mother’s milk leads to everything.

It looks more and more like he on to something. Nature probably knew what it was doing when designing mother’s milk, which is about 10% sugar. But manufacturers seem to be following the old expression that was used by previous generations only with great irony:

If some is good, more is better.

It was a wisecrack your grandmother might make if you put too much salt in the soup, meaning, of course, the exact opposite. What Grandma meant was, “more” is not always better. “More” can turn a nice pot of soup into an inedible abomination. But what about this? Infant formula is said to go as high as 50% sugar. The liquid supplements for slightly older children are no better. Dr. Pretlow wrote for Fooducate:

Parents don’t realize that they might be feeding the potential for a case of childhood obesity. The possibility that such supplements could predispose children to food addiction needs to be considered… Supposedly, a gateway drug opens a door to the use of ‘harder’ drugs. The controversy over gateway drugs will not be settled any time soon, but if childhood obesity is a concern, we might stop to wonder: If there is such a thing as a gateway drug to food addiction, what might that substance be?

Sugar looks like a really good candidate, and the more a person learns about how newborn infants are fed, the more serious the situation looks.

And, oh, by the way, according to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, the average American consumes 150 pounds of sugar each year. Think about it. For every person who has renounced sugar, somebody out there is eating 360 pounds! (Just kidding. It’s distributed out more evenly. It just means a little more is added on to the pile of sugar accounted for by each of the rest of us.)

In a quotation that may not be famous yet but should be, Jill Escher said:

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: “Getting out of the Rat Race: Sugar Addiction,” Year of the Detox, 06/06/12
Source: “Sugar, by any other name would taste as sweet,” Year of the Detox, 05/26/12
Source: “Homeostasis and the sugar upset,”Year of the Detox, 05/29/12
Source: “Do Not Feed Your Baby Formula,” Your Joyful Pregnancy and Parenting Guide, 03/03/12
Source: “Food Supplements and Childhood Obesity,” Fooducate, 01/20/11
Image by The hills are alive (Caroline).

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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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