DDN 0715 - page 6

Pure, White and Deadly
refers to a white crystalline
killer, but not one that will appear on any drug classification list. The book of
this title was written more than 30 years ago by a British physiologist Dr
John Rudkin, who warned about the many serious health risks associated
with sugar consumption.
For many years it was saturated fats that were largely seen as the culprit
in the major non-communicable diseases, particularly heart disease. Only in
the last decade have Rudkin’s stark sugar predictions been taken more
seriously by the scientific community.
A diet high in sugar is now thought to be the leading factor in the
development of obesity and can play a significant role in type 2 diabetes,
heart disease, stroke, fatty liver disease and some cancers. Research is
showing that even Alzheimer’s (also now referred to as type 3 diabetes)
could be associated with a high sugar diet.
Earlier this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) produced
guidelines for the maximum intake of free sugars – that’s all sugar added to
food, as well as honey, syrup and the sugar present in fruit juice. They
recommend that adults reduce their free sugar intake to 5 per cent of their
total calories – just six teaspoons. A 500ml bottle of coke contains almost
double this amount of sugar.
The intake of many people in the general population is likely to be way above
this, but individuals in recovery can have notoriously high intakes of free sugar,
anecdotally spooning several teaspoons into countless cups of tea or coffee.
However, it’s not only the sugar knowingly added, but the hidden sugars
added by food manufacturers that are contributing to the rise in obesity and
associated illnesses.
Katharine Jenner, campaign director of Action on Sugar comments:
‘Sugars are hidden in so many of our everyday foods. We eat and drink more
than our maximum recommendation without even realising it.’
When individuals reach the point of recovery, long-term physical health
becomes more of a priority. In considering long-term health, should we now
be encouraging those with history of substance misuse to cut down drastically
on sugar, which has previously been perceived as a relatively harmless vice?
A person who has experienced liver damage from alcohol or hepatitis C
may be unaware that high levels of sugar can also contribute to damage.
Although such individuals haven’t been specifically studied, cardiologist and
science director at Action on Sugar, Aseem Malhotra says that, ‘The same
rules apply to fatty liver disease from excess sugar consumption as they do
from alcohol.’
But for those with a history of addiction, kicking the sugar habit may be
particularly difficult. A hypothesis that is gaining ground suggests that sugar
is an addictive substance. Researchers have described it as acting in the body
in a similar way to psychoactive substances. Like addictive substances, it
releases both opioids and dopamine – chemicals that are involved the brain’s
reward pathways. Self-identified ‘food addicts’ describe using food to self-
medicate, by eating in order to try to change a negative mood state.
What’s more, sugar consumption can share features typical of an
addiction pathway, namely bingeing, withdrawal, craving and cross-
sensitisation. Reward deficiency syndrome (RDS) is a gene-related condition
6 |
| July/August 2015
For those with a history of
addiction the well-publicised
dangers of sugar could pose
serious risks. Nutritionist
Helen Sandwell
looks at
the evidence
1,2,3,4,5 7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,...20
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