From the Desk of Carolyn Dean MD ND

Dr. Abram Hoffer, the cofounder of Orthomolecular Medicine with Dr. Linus Pauling was convinced that:

“Sugar, is an addiction far stronger than what we see with heroin. It is the basic addictive substance from which all other addictions flow. Refined sugar and all refined foods such as polished rice, white flour and the like are nothing less than legalized poisons.”

Janice Keller Phelps, in her 1977 book, The Hidden Addiction, gives an explanation for addictive behavior:

A non-addictive person will eat some “sugar-food” and after eating a reasonable portion will feel satisfied for a prolonged period. In contrast, the addictive person…immediately wants more. The physiological hunger is not quieted and continues to signal for more. Some such people will proceed on a veritable sugar binge, gorging on sugar or simple carbohydrates even when they know it is going to make them feel terrible.

Carolyn Dean MD ND

Sugar addiction is the world’s most widespread addiction.

Phelps’s model for addiction identifies the following addictive substances. The first is sugar, followed by alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, speed, marijuana, and opiate narcotics.

Phelps noted a strong correlation between the use of alcohol or other addictive drugs and a strong craving for sugar. She observed that heroin addicts would consume staggering amounts of sugar while they were undergoing treatment. If they ate enough sugar and simple carbohydrates, they could satisfy their physiological hunger for the addictive substance and actually postpone or alleviate withdrawal for prolonged intervals.

We’ve all heard that Alcoholics Anonymous trades the addiction to alcohol to coffee, sugar, and donuts (or similar white flour products). Phelps is emphatic in stating that:

“Sugar addiction is the world’s most widespread addiction, and probably one of the hardest to kick. I believe it is the “basic addiction” that precedes all others. Most of my addicted patients tell me that at one time they craved sugar almost daily. Furthermore, few people recognize their sugar addiction.” And, “Sugar addiction can last a lifetime, or the sugar addict may progress to other addictive substances such as alcohol, street drugs, or prescription drugs.”

If You Are Not Addicted, Why Are You in Withdrawal?

Often, in the first several days after eliminating sugar, people experience withdrawal symptoms. This is an almost universal phenomenon, and once again points to the addictive condition associated with sugar. This has not been scientifically studied, but in my many years of practice, it is a strong clinical observation. The withdrawal symptoms are irritability, insomnia, itchiness, stomach upsets (either constipation or diarrhea), and, of course, a strong craving for sugar. After sugar withdrawal, if followed by challenging the system with a large amount of sugar, the patient will experience headaches, irritability, sleeplessness, hyperactivity, or lethargy. But avoiding sugar definitely results in less sugar cravings and desserts and treats just tasting too sweet.

Sugar and the Immune System

What’s the final nail in the sugar coffin? Vitamin C and other natural antioxidants like magnesium protect against the damage due to sugar. But here’s the rub: sugar and vitamin C utilize the same transport system in the body (insulin) meaning that excess sugar uses up insulin and stops vitamin C from getting to where it is needed in the white blood cells. Now that’s scary. That information goes hand in glove with the research showing that after sugar ingestion, WBCs are immobilized for 5 hours.

Sweet Smoke

Did you know that the tobacco industry uses refined sugar, which is added to air-cured tobacco during the blending process? This apparently improves the flavor and burning quality of the leaves. Extensive research has suggested that the increase in cancer from cigarettes may be attributed, in part, to the sugar content.

Sugar authors Gary Taubes and Robert Lustig both agree that sugar is addictive and that the sugar industry makes good use of this behavior to sell their products. Dr. Lustig mentions addiction 126 times in his book, Fat Chance. Gary Taubes says that sugar addiction has long been known and follows observations from the late 1880s to the present-day rat addiction studies.

We can follow the sugar timeline with this excerpt from Taubes book, The Case Against Sugar:

By sweetening with sugar, as an essay in The New York Times observed in 1884, “we can give a false palatableness to even the most indigestible rubbish.” Sugar does induce the same responses in the region of the brain known as the “reward center”—technically, the nucleus accumbens—as do nicotine, cocaine, heroin, and alcohol. Addiction researchers have come to believe that behaviors required for the survival of a species—specifically, eating and sex—are experienced as pleasurable in this part of the brain, and so we do them again and again. Sugar stimulates the release of the same neurotransmitters—dopamine in particular—through which the potent effects of these other drugs are mediated.

Rats given sweetened water in experiments find it significantly more pleasurable than cocaine, even when they’re addicted to the latter, and more than heroin as well (although the rats find this choice more difficult to make). Addict a rat over the course of months to intravenous boluses of cocaine, as the French researcher Serge Ahmed has reported, and then offer it the choice of a sweet solution or its daily cocaine fix, and the rat will switch over to the sweets within two days.

The choice of sweet taste over cocaine, Ahmed reports, may come about because neurons in the brain’s reward circuitry that respond specifically to sweet taste outnumber those that respond to cocaine fourteen to one; this general finding has been replicated in monkeys.

Taubes states that, “the per capita consumption of candy in the United States doubled with the beginning of Prohibition in 1919, as Americans apparently turned en masse from alcohol to sweets.” My concern about this sugar shift extends to the harm that sugar does to the intestinal flora by encouraging yeast overgrowth and flooding the body with 78 yeast toxins. Yeast is a trigger for a leaky gut, which allows undigested food particles to be absorbed into the blood stream causing food allergies. This will be the topic of Part 2 on Addiction called “Food Addiction and Allergies.”

Carolyn Dean MD ND
The Doctor of the Future