General, Research, Technology

Should sugar be classified as a drug?

Do you think sugar is a drug? This issue has been discussed for more than a decade. Sugar tickles our dopamine receptors just like alcohol, nicotine and other drugs, inspiring our brain's reward system. Scientists know that excess sugar is the culprit for a number of life-threatening diseases. Even so, the consumption of sweets throughout the world continues to grow. No responsible parent will let their kids eat candy for breakfast, but that doesn't mean they don't get the equivalent sweet dose in many breakfast cereals, juices, and even seemingly healthy options like oatmeal and jam. A 2017 study found that children consume half of their daily sugar intake in the morning.

The first World Health Organization's Global Diabetes Report found that 422 million adults are living with diabetes, mostly in developing countries.

Why do we need sugar?

The human brain absorbs sugar, just likehummingbird - to some extent, of course. The World Health Organization (WHO) in 2014 adopted 25 grams of sugar per day as an acceptable limit. However, almost any bottle of juice or fruit water - organic, freshly squeezed, cold pressed, and processed five times over - exceeds the limits. That's why children develop the same diseases as alcoholicsand why some experts are calling for sugar to be classified as a drug.

How people decide which substances are illegal and dangerous and which are acceptable and harmless has more to do with politics, marketing and social mores than with science.

To combat this trend, some rely onon the poorly studied mechanism of "cleansing the body of poisons and toxins." This also has its dangers. The thoughtless consumption of weight loss products such as green tea, milk thistle and valerian root can lead to serious health problems. The added sugars in condiments, nut butters, sauces, and dressings need to be considered, and maintaining an acceptable level is challenging. For more on how sugar affects the brain, read this fascinating article by my colleague Daria Eletskaya.

Studies have previously shown that sugar acts on the brain almost like cocaine

Interestingly, sugar consumption began infor medicinal purposes, not as a food source. It spread through the Arab kingdoms in southern Europe, although it was still viewed (and appreciated) as a rare spice. Sugar, ubiquitous today, was once a vaunted substance associated with slavery and colonization. The economy was fueled by it. As production increased due to the British invasion of the tropics, sugar was used daily to lighten the tannin load of tea, as well as in jams and sweets. We were hooked.

How much sugar do you consume? We will wait for the answer in the comments to this article, as well as in our Telegram chat.

Accessibility breeds addiction. Just think about what happened to mobile phones, once a rare luxury. Like a technological addiction that exploits boredom and novelty, sugar exploits an aversion to bitter tastes — or, more likely, allows us to forget that a wide and varied palette of tastes is healthy. The sugar seduction has lasted for millennia, but it took over us in the 19th and especially in the 20th century.

Observing the state of health of the subjects,who consumed too much sugar, the researchers concluded that you can slightly reduce their intake and be healthy - drink one or two sugary drinks a day instead of three; or, if you have children, only allow ice cream on weekends and not as a daily treat. But if it takes us years, decades, or even generations to get to the first symptoms of metabolic syndrome, it is possible that even this seemingly moderate amount of sugar will be too much for us to turn the tide and regain lost health. And if the symptom that comes first is not weight gain, but cancer for example, then you're really out of luck.

Metabolic syndrome - This is an increase in the mass of visceral fat, a violation of carbohydrate, lipid, purine metabolism, and is also the cause of the development of arterial hypertension.

Sugar platter looks like this

In their work, researchers compare thisaddiction to smoking. Of course, a few cigarettes a day are better than a pack, but is that really so? The problem is that sugar is predominant in countless foods and in large quantities in alcohol. In the same way that alcoholics often do not admit their illness, sugar addicts are blind to the destruction it causes. And just as some alcoholics admit to a problem but do nothing to solve it, giving up dessert or midday candy seems incredible and insane. Life is too short to deny yourself pleasure, addiction says, even if this life gets worse.