Fructose and Sugar Addiction
Candy. Sugar. Fruit. America's downfall. Siren of the dieter. Linchpin of the obesity epidemic. But who actually eats that much sugar? Most people who whine about sugar addiction actually avoid sugar on a consistent basis. Obese people I know only drink diet soda. None of them eat fruit. Before I developed thyroid disease and cancer I only ate sugar rarely. As a rule I did not drink soda or eat candy of any kind. I am part of the recovery community, and many members regard sugar with the same negativity as heroin and alcohol. I don't know of anyone who has wrecked a vehicle under the influence of coca cola, suffocated during their sleep from caramel-candy abuse, or committed a murder during an ice-cream deal gone wrong. Do you?
One night early in my recovery from thyroid cancer I had an extreme craving for watermelon. I couldn't explain it. I JUST NEEDED WATERMELON. Though it was 1:00 in the morning I put on my clothes and braved the night cold to head to a grocery store in downtown LA where I got the most satisfying watermelon of my life. I don't know what it was about the watermelon that I was craving. Well, my conscious brain didn't know, but my tongue did. I had plenty of sugary foods in the house—apples, oranges, cane sugar, ice cream. But like a pregnant woman with a craving I just HAD to have watermelon. When I started eating it my brain got a signal like YES, this is it.
The tongue's job is to decide what you are putting into your body, and whether it's good for you. Here is the trap that most people fall into—Sugar tastes good. So it makes you feel good. So you put more into your body. You feel guilty for it and try harder not to eat it. Then you feel bad again. Sugar calls to you. You know if you eat it you will feel so good. The more you abstain the stronger the craving. But you eat it again, and again you feel good. Do you see what's going on here? The trap is not that sugar is bad for you. You have a problem with feeling good. The trap is social misinterpretations of rational biological functions. Either the body—the tongue—is bad at its job and should be mistrusted and outsmarted, or it's doing exactly what it's supposed to and the deficiency is your intellect.
Some studies claim that sugar activates the same centers of the brain as controlled substances. Of course it does. People who abuse drugs and alcohol are attempting to alleviate some pretty serious suffering. Sugar relieves suffering very well, but does so without the behavioral/social consequences. Bread and pasta, which are also used as comfort food, are entirely sugar. The kind of sugar it's made from is called starch, and it consists of many many chains of glucose. Once bread is digested it provides the same kind of sugar that straight corn syrup provides raw. Chemically, they are ultimately the same substance. The tongue is no deceiver. In fact, it can taste things you aren't aware of it tasting, which is why I had that inexplicable craving for watermelon. Consciously we can recognize sweet, savory, salty, umami. But the tongue can help us identify minerals and vitamins we need, in addition to calorie sources. Because I listened to my body, I was provided with relief and an increase in health and wellbeing. The tongue jumps for joy when greeted with sweet, sweet sugar because it knows this is going to help the body function better. Whining children don't want sugar because they are brats. They are hurting, most likely because you haven't fed them enough, and they know instinctively that sugar will relieve their discomfort. Recently someone asked me for help with their depression. I advised them to read my article Depression, and How I Cured Mine, which advocates for the use of Taurine and Sugar/Diet to alleviate depression. He informed me that he would use Taurine but wouldn't touch sugar. He is still depressed.
When it comes to humans we see animals all around us and feed them diets that are appropriate for their biology. No one would feed bird-seed to a cat and expect the cat to live, let alone thrive. But when it comes to ourselves we often don't consider that we probably have a human diet. I get this. It seems like a limitation and most people don't want to believe we have those, and that's alright. But when it comes to diet we do have specific metabolic functions which require specific metabolic sources, and when you eat the way we are supposed to as human animals we experience a thriving of health and metabolism. When we do the opposite, we do not. Saying you are addicted to sugar is like saying you are addicted to air, or water. Our cells literally cannot run without sugar. Without sugar your pancreas and lungs will shut down and you will die. It is impossible to be addicted to sugar. Of course, since sugar also relieves suffering it can sometimes feel like the body is craving it. This is a sign of metabolic insufficiency, rather than an addiction, and you probably just need to put more attention toward maintaining your blood sugar than denying yourself something we need to survive.
Sugar cravings are usually a sign of improper sugar metabolism and/or storage. If anyone craves sugar the problem can hardly be solved by starving yourself of sugar. Your body is telling you what it needs and the worse thing you can do is the opposite of that need. Often, these cravings result from the inappropriate metabolism of sugar once it's digested. Sugar ideally should be directed toward oxidation and storage as glycogen. If this is the case sugar and carbs aren't craved and only the normal hunger impulse occurs. In people with deranged sugar metabolism other health problems are usually manifest such as weight gain, insomnia, anxiety or emotional problems, etc. This reflects the inability of the body to store and/or utilize sugar properly, where sugar is wasted in the urine or synthesized into fat instead of stored as glycogen. These kinds of problems can be caused by many factors such as alcohol and drug use, prescription drugs, inferior fats in the diet like canola, soy, or fish oil, or vitamin deficiencies such as Riboflavin or Biotin, which are used to direct sugar to the proper routes of metabolism. Cutting out poor fats and supplementing Biotin and Riboflavin in the morning and afternoon can help direct sugar to it's proper metabolic routes as glycogen storage and oxidation for fuel instead of wasting in the urine and fat storage, thus reducing the craving for storage and probably relieving some other related health issues.
I have sixteen nieces and nephews, all under seven-years old. Some of my siblings let their children have plenty of desserts, ice cream, and sweets along with a focus on fruit and vegetables for snack times. Their children sleep through the night, and are rarely ill. My other siblings feel a moral obligation to withhold sugar from their children, instead providing grain-based snacks or making their children go hungry when upset and tired, never mind ice cream. Their children wake frequently during the night, and get sick often and easily. As much as they would like it to be true the body does not live on morals, discipline, or conjecture. It lives on sugar, protein, and fat. Mentioning my nightly sugar consumption to friends or family who suffer insomnia they often reply, "doesn't it keep you awake?" From people with insomnia. Who don't eat sugar. To someone who eats sugar. Who doesn't have insomnia. They asked that. Seriously. I mean. Do I need to spell it out again?
Every night before bed I choose something sugary to cap off the day: ice cream, a root-beer float, or a casein protein shake with 1/2 cup of added sugar. I do this because when I do, I sleep the entire night and when I don't, I don't sleep the entire night. I used to abstain from sugar and had debilitating insomnia (which you can read about in How to Sleep When You Can't). The primary driver of this is the molecule Fructose. Cane sugar is 1/2 Glucose and 1/2 Fructose. Fructose gets its name for being the predominant sugar in ripened fruit, not because it's part of High-Fructose Corn Syrup. Fruit was (and still should be) a primary food source for humans, because we are primates. Part of the reason we don't synthesize vitamin C, which most animals can do, is because of our evolutionary diet which consisted of high-vitamin C fuit. This is also why fruit tastes so good to us. Have you ever tried to feed an orange to a dog or a cat? They turn their nose up at it. Because they aren't primates, and didn't evolve on fruit. We did, and thence our biology runs, partly, on fructose. Cane sugar is for all intents and purposes the same as fruit sugar. For this reason is it not only pleasurable, but much the way a cat suffers ill-health on a protein deficient diet so do humans on a fructose deficient one. Fructose is present in animals which don't consume any sugar, because it can be synthesized if necessary. Humans who suffer from metabolic issues, who don't consume fructose, have probably lost the ability to synthesize the adequate amounts necessary to sustain health. Before scientists figured out how to synthesize insulin, fructose therapy was standard treatment for diabetes.
Fructose is also the most easily digested natural sugar in our diet, and it is involved in many cellular functions. Unlike glucose, insulin is not needed to process fructose in the body and fructose does, in fact, lower insulin. It does this because Fructose actually helps the body use Glucose, which is the most abundant sugar in our diet. So consuming it before bed or when suffering metabolic disease has healing, beneficial effects. Fructose is the primary reason why Fruitarians (a diet which I strongly oppose) have such a high metabolic rate, and why people who consider themselves addicts of sugar (or in other words, human) feel cravings for it. This is not because the body is a trickster that wants you to suffer and fail—it's because fructose is a primary driver of our metabolic health, involved in all sorts of metabolic processes. If fructose caused metabolic disease then fruitarians would be fat and diabetic, but they are overly lean and not diabetic. Not only can you use Fructose to feel good, you can use it to help restore health.
Sometimes I don't follow my own advice, and when I regained some weight recently I had stopped my usual sugar consumption. During my major weight loss last year I consumed 3 to 4 pounds of cane sugar a week, mostly in the form of protein shakes. I kept it with me every day, nursing on it slowly around my regular meals and snacks. Since my health got better I got lazy and stopped making my shakes every day. My liver could now hold enough glycogen to keep me going without constant refueling. My sugar consumption dropped dramatically. My waist expanded, and some of my health problems started to hurt again (light insomnia, irritability, body aches, blurry eye-sight). Now I keep cane sugar candy with me and eat it all day long. I have lost most of the extra weight. No insomnia. No irritability.
When you eat sugar you feel happy. Want to feel happy all day long? Go ahead. Obviously we need vitamins and minerals, so as an adjunct to a normal diet the benefits of added natural sugar are happiness, energy, and healing. I really can't think of any good reasons to avoid that.
Undiscerning people often refer to baked goods like cake and cookies when discussing sugar. But baked goods are often made of many things besides sugar. Wheat, oils, and preservatives are all things that are not the kind of sugar that is good for you, and many things in baked foods and treats have adverse metabolic effects. Grains, containing starch which is made of glucose, causes specific inflammation when eaten, and the explosive amount of glucose can overwhelm cells by exhausting fructose stores, especially if a person is at all diabetic. High-fructose corn syrup can be harmful not for the fructose but for everything else that it's in, including starch residues, industrial enzymes, pesticides and heavy metals. I do advocate the consumption of cocoa cola and other sodas with HFCS as long as they are balanced by other healthy foods in the diet. There's no sense in cutting out all dietary enjoyment, and in fact I think it's harmful to do so (I have pizza at least once a month). The only thing I would caution against is consuming candies, ice creams, and other pre-made foods which contain toxic additives like carrageenan, soy lecithin, binding gums (like xanthan gum, guar gum, etc.) and exotic mineral compounds for preservatives. If a food manufacturer can't make their product with healthy foods you shouldn't be eating it, and they don't deserve your money. Almost none of the candy in Trader Joe's is suitable if you wish to avoid industrial additives. Even Whole Foods uses soy in their chocolate and binders in their other candies. If you buy something premade you must read the label.
Fructose can also be used as a natural medication. When supplied consistently to the body it easily raises the metabolic rate without the assistance of any other substances, but it's benefit can be extended with the concomitant use of Aspirin. Together these two compounds help to normalize metabolic function, then when foods are eaten those foods are used as they should be and not the deficient wasting as happens during metabolic deficiency. For instance, when milk, a high-protein, high calcium food is ingested during sluggish metabolism the tryptophan in the milk is converted by the body into inflammatory substances. But if milk is consumed when the metabolic rate is high the tryptophan is converted into Niacin—the all important B vitamin. Using fructose and aspirin to first raise the metabolic rate milk then becomes therapeutic instead of a liability. Keeping this practice up while consuming a healthy diet free of grains and bad fats (corn, soy, canola) can very quickly correct a very wide variety of health issues, or at least give some desperately needed relief. On consumption of fructose-containing sugar some immediate effects will be an increase in heart-rate, body temperature, a depressurizing of sinus and ear canals if there is chronic inflammation, mood will increase, posture will improve, and tension will subside. These are all signs that it is doing good for you. Keep it up. Over the long term it can help repair and rebuild tissues and systems which are suffering. There is a great deal of science on the phosphorylation of fructose and how it relates to ATP function in the cells, if you wish to understand for yourself the science behind this, you can read up. For more on how to restore your body's metabolism of sugar and how to eat to recover from metabolic illness, lose weight, and feel good you can read my book Fuck Portion Control.