Not So Sweet

Does this sound healthy? Bagel and orange juice for breakfast, turkey sandwich, apple and chips for lunch, that afternoon latte and pasta for dinner. Have you ever thought about how many carbohydrates you eat everyday? The example daily menu tallied up to a grand total of 279 carbohydrates. Optimal daily recommended carb intake depends on many variables such as age, gender, body composition, activity level, and metabolic health, but moderate carbohydrate intake falls between 100-150 carbohydrates/day. However, people who are physically active and have more muscle mass can tolerate more carbs than those who are sedentary. You’re probably asking why you should care about carbohydrates. After all, haven’t we been told to watch the calories and the fat for decades? Those carbohydrates are sugar. Excess sugar consumption has been proven to directly contribute to weight gain. When you eat sugar, your pancreas releases insulin which brings the glucose (from the carbs) into the cells. This glucose is stored as glycogen in our muscle and liver, but if these glycogen stores are already full, the glycogen is stored as fat. In 2012, the British Medical Journal published a study that combed through the literature regarding how body weight and sugar intake were related and indexed over 15,000 potential studies.[1] Sixty-eight studies made the cut of passing the rigid standards and statistical reliability and they all came to the same conclusion: sugar makes people gain weight.

Sugar also elevates dopamine levels which control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers similar those to drugs such as cocaine, morphine and nicotine. Long-term exposure to sugar lead to a reduction of dopamine levels, causing increased sugar consumption to achieve the same level of reward.

So how are we to get out excessive sugar intake under control? In a study published by international research journal PLOS ONE, found withdrawal from chronic sugar exposure can “result in an imbalance in dopamine levels and can be as difficult as going ‘cold turkey’” from a drug. Hopefully we will not have to resort to drugs to break us from the tight grip sugar has on our taste buds. This summer, opt for water instead of juice and soda, or some string cheese instead of the apple and see if you can see a difference in the way you feel by breaking the sugar habit.


[1] Te Morenga, Mallard S., Mann, J., “Dietary sugars and body weight: systematic review and meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials and cohort studies,” British Medical Journal (January 2012): 345:e7492.


Written by: Heather West, PT
Edited by: Reshma Rathod, PT

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