One of my cherished memories growing up in Texas was our visits to the “Long Star Brewery” where my grandfather worked. The Brewery had a luxurious guest area that served tapped beer for adults as well as tapped Root Beer for children. The soda was served in a very tall frosted chilled glass mug of which I never could finish drinking. As a child, I did not know anything about sugar-free drinks or of any harm of drinking sugary treats. Other Texas favorites were “Big Red” and “Dr. Pepper.” Sugary drinks were considered a treat which was only allowed for special occasions as a child and continues to be on reserve for my special celebrations.
This week a study led by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that the more Sugar-Sweetened Beverages (SSBs) people consume, increased their risk of premature death from cardiovascular disease (CVD). The study defined SSBs as carbonated and noncarbonated soft drinks, fruit drinks, energy, and sports drinks. The study concludes the consumption of just two or more servings per day of SSBs increases an early death from CVD by 31% with each additional intake increases the rate by 10%.
How did we get to this point? Sugar is added in various forms labeled as high fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, corn sweetener to name a few. The increase of added sugar is not just in sugary drinks but in just about everything we consume. The increase in consumption is not entirely the consumer’s fault. I am inclining to place the blame where it belongs, and that is on the “Food Manufacturers.” The Food Industry is a $1 trillion industry who have over the years increasingly added sugars to the products we ingest and are partially responsible for the obesity epidemic, CVD, diabetes and other chronic diseases and now studies are indicating impacting our mortality rates. Never forget “We are what we Eat.”
Michael Moss, a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist, investigated the food industry and discovered that they intentionally meticulously engineer foods to get us hooked by making us happy. Moss states: “Executives and Food Scientists employed by the Food Giants want to create the biggest craving, to keep their heavy users using, and to hook new consumers especially children on their products.”
Neuroimaging studies have shown the impact of smell, sight, or taste of palatable food (defined as food high in sugar additives) instantly sets off a series of sensory metabolic and neurotransmitters. Sugars activate the release of the chemical dopamine the feel-good (pleasure) chemical. As a result, the food industry entices us with these products loaded with sugar creating an intense desire for these foods and beverages. Many Americans who consume foods loaded with sugars tend to eat and drink more often for pleasure than actual hunger or thirst. Scientific evidence suggests that repeated exposure to large amounts of sugary foods can alter the brain in ways like an abusive drug, essentially rewiring the brain to promote compulsive overeating and loss of control. Thus, it has been proven, ice cream does make you feel good by activating the release of dopamine.
What is the solution? Become more aware of the addictive effects of sugar and sugary beverages, and it’s devastating metabolic side effects it plays on the body. Limit or eliminate SSBs and overly processed foods and continue to be mindful of what you are placing in your body. Moss discovered an intriguing point in his interview with the Food Scientist and Executives that they do not eat or drink their products because they know about the addictive properties of sugar.
The food industry blames us for the health problems for not having self-control, however, in reality, it is the industry who refuses to accept responsibility for deliberately making processed foods so addictive for a profit.