Blog

Are You a Sugar Zombie?

by in Diabetes, Dr. Scott Olson, Drug Abuse, Holistic Nutrition Tips, Hypoglycemia, Kitchen Sink, Preventative Medicine, Sugar November 12, 2008

By Dr. Scott Olson

Author of Sugarettes.

If you were a normal zombie, you would rise up out of your grave and stumble off in search of your craving: flesh. Sugar zombies, however, typically rise from their couch and go off in search of their craving: sugar. Sugar zombies yearning for sugar can sometimes only be satisfied with a pure sugary treat, but remember, certain foods act like sugar in the body (such are grains, chips, crackers, French fries and others…) and these “foods that act like sugar” are sometimes what the sugar zombie are searching for.

A funny thing about sugar zombies is that they can sometimes eat sugar even when they are not hungry and have just eaten. Do you remember going to a restaurant and having a full meal, and yet you still ordered desert? True sign of sugar zombieness.

Most people, when asked, will admit to some kind of sugar addiction and zombie-like behavior, but they often don’t realize just how strong that addiction can be, nor do they realize how much sugar can do to destroy their health.

What Science is Discovering about Zombies

Science is beginning to take sugar addiction serious. They have investigated how animals (mostly rats) act when they become addicted to sugar. Let’s take a peek inside the laboratory and see what they found out:

  • Rats who were allowed to eat as much sugar as they like, eat a ton of it. If fact, they will often eat more sugar than any other type of food. Sometimes, they become so addicted to sugar that they become rat sugar zombies and sugar is all they will eat.(1)
  • What happens when you addict rats to sugar and then take it away? Typically, they shake, tremble, become anxious and their teeth can even chatter.(2) They can also become much more aggressive. If this sounds like the symptoms of a junkie (or a zombie), you are exactly right. These typical withdrawal symptoms, show up in all sorts of other addictions, including smokers, drinkers, and drug addicts.
  • Scientists took the next step, they addicted rats to sugar, took it away and then they brought it back. Guess what happened? The rats binged on the sugar and ate much more than they previously did. If this sounds a bit like the last time you went on a diet and gained more weight than you lost, then you are a true sugar zombie. Binging when the addiction is removed and then brought back is a clear sign of addiction.(3)
  • When rats are under stress, they eat more sugar.(4) Once again, I’m guessing that this sounds a bit familiar to you? Do you eat more sugar when you are stressed?
  • Scientists have discovered that the brains of rats change when they become addicted to sugar and the changes in their brains are very similar to those of other addicts, including smokers, alcoholics and drug addicts.(5)
  • To test if a substance is really addictive, scientists will give animals the addicting substance (alcohol, drugs, nicotine…) and then give them a drug called an opioid antagonist. What the opioid antagonist does is block the brain from sensing the pleasurable aspects of the addicting substance. When opioid antagonists are given to sugar addicted zombie rats, they experience withdrawal exactly like rats addicted to morphine, alcohol or cigarettes.(6)

But are Zombies Hurt By Sugar?

Here is the real question you want to get to: You are a confirmed sugar zombie, but what is wrong with that? Well, it turns out, a lot! Sugar harms your body in three ways: it increases your weight, it leads to problems with insulin and blood sugar control, and it has a toxic effect on our blood vessels.

Let’s take a look:

  • Weight Gain: According to the scientific and medical communities sugar is really not associated with weight gain. These health professionals will tell you that sugar contributes to weight gain because it contains calories. This is true. But sugar also contributes to weight gain just because it is sugar. It works this way: Your body has certain basic energy needs and sugar (mostly glucose) is the fuel that runs your body. Once you have enough sugar-fuel for all your energy needs, your body tends to store all the extra sugar as fat (and sugar zombies eat meals that often create a large amount of extra sugar in the blood that will get turned into fat).(7)
  • Insulin Resistance: Sugar contributes to insulin resistance whenever blood sugar levels in the blood spike too high too often. When blood sugar levels in the body rise, insulin in the body also rises. Consistently high amounts of insulin in the body will eventually lead to cells down-regulating (or removing) insulin receptors; this eventually leads to a condition called insulin resistance (were the cells of the body are resistant to insulin) and diabetes. Insulin resistance does not develop when blood sugar levels are kept low.(8)
  • Toxic Effects: Surprisingly, sugar is actually toxic blood vessels in the exact same way cigarette smoke is toxic to the lungs. Sugar causes harm to the protein structure of the blood vessel walls, eventually leading to destruction. This destruction can be seen dramatically in diabetics who have kidney disease, eye disease, heart disease, tingling in hands and feet, and even blindness and loss of limbs – all due to the destruction of blood vessels. (9) This same destruction happens in sugar zombies who don’t have diabetes, only at a slower pace.

How to Break the Zombie Spell

Getting over sugar cravings is not easy, especially when you are a sugar zombie, but then getting over any addiction can be hard. Know that the efforts you make are well worth it as the destruction that sugar creates is enormous.

Try these tips to stop your zombie sugar cravings:

  • Eat more often: while this seems backwards, eating more often is much better for your blood sugar, your metabolism, and your sugar cravings.
  • Eat fruit: It is easy to overdo this, but focus on fruits that are low on the glycemic index and try to eat them after a meal where they affect blood sugar less.
  • Brush your teeth: This is a trick many people use to stop cravings and it will help your zombie smile.
  • Exercise: A simple walk is often enough to stop cravings as it gets you up and moving and away from your temptations.

Take these tips and walk away from your zombie life. Simply being aware that you are a sugar zombie will make a huge change in your life. Take your sugar craving seriously – as you would any other addiction: know that the road will be tough at times, but that you can do it. Your reward, on the other side of your addiction, is better sleep, more energy, less sugar zombie-like behavior and a healthier life.

Recommended Reading: Sugarettes

Dr. Scott Olson is a Naturopathic doctor, expert in alternative medicine, author, and medical researcher. Spurred on by his patients’ struggles with sugar addiction, he was determined to discover how addictive and harmful sugar can be and ways to overcome that addiction.

The result of that study is his book Sugarettes, which details the addictive qualities of sugar and the harm that sugar does to our bodies.

Dr. Scott also maintains a blog which highlights the latest in health and healthy living. Subscribe or stop by to check out his latest research on sugar addiction.

References:

1.Spangler R, Wittkowski KM, Goddard NL, et al: Opiate-like effects of sugar on gene expression in reward areas of the rat brain. Brain Res Mol Brain Res. 2004 May 19;124(2):134-42.
2.Colantuoni C, Rada P, McCarthy J, et al: Evidence that intermittent, excessive sugar intake causes endogenous opioid dependence. Obes Res. 2002 Jun;10(6):478-88.
3.Pelchat ML. Of human bondage: food craving, obsession, compulsion, and addiction. Physiol Behav. 2002 Jul;76(3):347-52.
4.Gosnell BA. Sucrose intake predicts rate of acquisition of cocaine self-administration. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2000 Apr;149(3):286-92.
5.Avena NM, Rada P, Hoebel BG: Evidence for sugar addiction: behavioral and neurochemical effects of intermittent, excessive sugar intake. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2008;32(1):20-39. Epub 2007 May 18.
6.Avena NM, Long KA, Hoebel BG: Sugar-dependent rats show enhanced responding for sugar after abstinence: evidence of a sugar deprivation effect. Physiol Behav. 2005 Mar 16;84(3):359-62.
7.Livesey G: Low-glycaemic diets and health: implications for obesity. Proc Nutr Soc. 2005 Feb;64(1):105-13.
8.Henriksen HB, Kolset SO: Sugar intake and public health. Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen. 2007 Sep 6;127(17):2259-62.
9.Friedman EA: Advanced glycosylated end products and hyperglycemia in the pathogenesis of diabetic complications. Diabetes Care. 1999 Mar;22 Suppl 2:B65-71.

4 Comments
  1. Wow. What a great piece! I’m working on full body detoxification. Wish me luck!
    😉
    K

    Kelly Olexa’s last blog post..Are You a Sugar Zombie?

  2. I strongly believe in good detoxification programs as a way to break old habits and establish new, healthier ones. Getting the sugar out is a good place to start.

    Good Luck K!

    Dr. Scott’s last blog post..Are You a Sugar Zombie?

  3. Thanks, Dr. Scott. That was really insightful. I especially liked reading how sugar addiction affected rats. Very fascinating.

    Just before coming here I read a great post by my friend Ari on specific ways to break habits:
    http://ourbestversion.com/2008/11/the-7-keys-to-breaking-bad-habits/
    I thought it was very appropriate to this topic and discussion.

    I eat sugar, but less than I used to. I think I would cut it out completely if I liked the taste of certain foods/drinks without it. I just don’t trust the sugar alternatives. I would love to hear your insights on the alternatives, specifically Splenda.

  4. Great post, Dr. Scott! Recovering sugar addict here.

    I was just reading something fascinating about meat – cancer – sugar:

    According to the results of a new study, published in “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” (PNAS), when we eat red meat, we’re introducing Neu5Gc (N-glycolylneuraminic acid) into our bodies – a type of sugar molecule. We don’t naturally produce Neu5Gc. The body tries to fight the foreign substance by producing antibodies. The response causes inflammation, in turn promoting cancerous tumor growth.

    earthmother’s last blog post..eBooks for Health

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *