The other white poison: Sugar as addictive as cocaine - KCTV5 News

The other white poison: Sugar as addictive as cocaine, study says

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Sugar is everywhere. And, within the last century, society has grown to connect sugar with positive, happy occasions. Sugar is everywhere. And, within the last century, society has grown to connect sugar with positive, happy occasions.

If striving for a better body, one is likely watching their sugar intake, but what is hard to realize is why it's so hard to cut back.

Researchers now say sugar is eight times more addictive than cocaine, and it is in places people may not even realize.

A single serving of tomato sauce has more sugar than a few Oreos.

And just how much are we eating?

Women are supposed to eat about six teaspoons of sugar a day and men about nine. But on average, we are eating 22 teaspoons of sugar every day.

Sugar is everywhere. And, within the last century, our society has grown to connect sugar with positive, happy occasions.

Plain and simple - sugar equals celebration, festivity and love.

Since the 1970s, doctors and medical researchers have been preaching one united message to cut the salt and fat. Well, that war waging may have taken aim at the wrong enemy.

Americans have a long-standing love affair with sugar. Cardiologist Dr. James O'Keefe with St. Luke's Cardiovascular Consultants goes one step further.

"It is an addiction," he said.

Not addictive in the way we talk lightly about delicious food, but literally addictive - the same way drugs are. The more one has, the more they crave.

Just ask Shari Grady, a 30-something Lee's Summit mother of two, juggling her full-time job with grad school.

"I was having a Dr. Pepper in the morning, Mountain Dew in the afternoon, sometimes a Red Bull and coffee, just to try to get through class," she said.

But, then came the wake-up call from her doctor. A routine physical and elevated lab results showed it was time for a major life change. That change began with ignoring everything she had heard for years.

"Said, 'don't worry about sugar as long as you keep the calorie count down. It is more important to eliminate fat and salt. We disagree," O'Keefe said.

In numerous medical journals, O'Keefe has shown conclusive evidence that sugar contributes to cardiovascular disease, as well as liver disease, hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, obesity and Alzheimer's disease.

"When we eat wheat flour and sugar in processed foods, spikes our sugar, then insulin. Those are the hormonal disturbances that make you store belly fat, and then you are hungry for more sweets and starchy junk food," he said.

Grady admits the last three months have not been easy after ridding her pantry of potatoes, pasta, rice, bread, pop, juice, candy, cookies, cake and anything packaged with sugar.

"It was a miserable couple of weeks, I will say that," she said. "Irritability, angry, shakes, even got very nauseous."

But, she stuck with it and now refuses to go back to her sweet ways. She is down 25 pounds.

"I sleep better at night, not as irritable, a better mom, better employee and have better concentration," she said.

O'Keefe adds that those who cut the sugar not only improve their weight, but their health as well.

"Blood pressure comes down, diabetes goes away, obesity goes away, complexion clears up, mood clears up, sleep improves. It is really, really striking," he adds.

So, what can you eat? 

"Lots of vegetables, lots of fruits and nuts, berries and fish, chicken breast and water and sparkling water," O'Keefe said.

It is a "back to the basics" meal plan that Grady knows is much better for her two boys. Though her children might disagree.

"Oh, I'll tell you they are not happy. Had to get rid of cereal, Pop Tarts and crackers," she said.

O'Keefe says in order to kick the sugar addiction, it takes four to six weeks to get through the intense cravings until hormones change, and actually consuming healthy fats and some salt is recommended for weight loss.

So avoid anything processed that is sweet. It doesn't matter if it is sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, honey, cane sugar, sucrose, brown sugar or fake sugar. It all will wreak havoc on your health.

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