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Killed By Sweetness: The Dangers of Sugar

Deadly Substance on the Rise

As an addictions specialist, I was encouraged to see more media attention on that deadly evil white powder so many people desire.  I know it is pretty how it glistens.  I know it makes you feel good.  But it is killing you.  By a recent report, it is being blamed for killing a lot of people.  A recent World Health Organization study finds that 180,000 deaths annually can be attributed to sugary drinks.

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Yes, sugar.  That’s more than a World Trade Center of people every week.  Put down that soda and finish reading.  Now many people are proposing bans on soda or taxes on super big gulps.  This seemed to work with tobacco. Once cigarettes got more and more expensive, we smoked less and less of them.  I see this with addictive medications.  When someone has to pay full price, they are more motivated to have less.  I do take issue with a Police State approach.  I don’t really want someone else to decide how I should be protected from me.

 I wish there could be other motivators.  I wish we could be responsible and exercise discipline.  Sugar, however, seems to stimulate the brain in similar ways that other white crystalline powder does.  Sugar triggers pleasure centers in the brain in similar ways to cocaine.  So, if it acts a bit like cocaine, does it hijack normal reward mechanisms and force rational thinking and logic out the window?  The idea of choice and self discipline become more tenuous.  The other problem is creating negative associations. I like sugar, it makes me feel good right now.  Gaining weight comes tomorrow, or in a week, or in a year.  That doesn’t get associated with the sugary culprit then and the culprit keeps looking so good.  Money then becomes an aversive stimulus.  If I am taxed more to get my sugar fix, I have an immediate negative association.  That becomes a deterrent to the behavior.  Philosophically, I don’t necessarily agree, but it does create a direct aversive trigger to the behavior.

Whatever the case, obesity is on the rise.  Sugar is delicious, yet our bodies don’t often know what to do with all that energy.  Of course, the National Sugar Exchange is likely to come forward with the statement that sugar doesn’t kill people, people do.  Last I checked none of us are hummingbirds so we don’t need to be lapping up sugar water anyway.

 Tax the rich!  Rich foods, that is?

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