Gods with their special powers, winged creatures and frightening monsters, Zeus high on Olympus and Hades in the underworld. If you like Greek Mythology you will certainly be intrigued by the Sugar Medusa! Ancient Greek Mythology tells of Medusa, a Gorgon (monster), who was most hideous with venomous snakes wriggling from her head and penetrating eyes that could turn you to stone. Our modern day Sugar Medusa is much the same. It’s venomous bite addicts and can kill while it’s ability to turn you to stone penetrates from the inside out!
If the analogy is a bit freaky, it’s also absolutely true! Our modern day Sugar Monster is in nearly every product you pick up in the store. Its tentacles are found contaminating the obvious cake, cookies, ice cream and candy but its reach extends to drinks, sauces, spices, processed meats, canned foods, salad dressings, salsa’s, dips, yogurts, crackers, chips, cereals, breads and much more. Going shopping without reading labels is an immediate strike against your health!
So where did sugar come from and how did it end up in so many food products today? More importantly what has this monster done to the health of our society? In 100 A.D. The Sugar Monster started rearing its ugly head in India when the first sugar mills started processing sugar cane. Although sugar had been a known sweetener since 10,000 B.C. when bees were kept to produce honey, it was never a health threat until consumption was increased by adding refined sugar to the diet. (1)
In 1907 a British physician in India observed that type 2 diabetes was increasingly found among wealthy Bengal Indians but rarely found among the poor class. He linked this to the increasing intake of sugar. The early advent of sugar swept through Europe from India. It was expensive and those who could afford it became obese, including William the Conqueror who was accused of being pregnant his belly was so large.
As sugar plantations began to flourish, the price of sugar declined and it was no longer a rich man’s addiction. In 1700 the average per capita sugar intake in the United States and England was 4 pounds per year which grossly rose to more than 150 pounds per year by 2000. This addiction was spurred by the dopamine response from increased sugar in the diet. Perhaps it is even fair to say food manufacturers understand this addiction and add sugar to their products to increase sales!
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter the brain uses to control mood, behavior, learning and memory. It is affected by high levels of sugar. In fact sugar triggers an addictive response similar to drugs. Daily bingeing on sugar causes the release of dopamine, which spurs the desire for more sugar. Over time more and more sugar is needed to trigger the feel good dopamine response. As a result more sugar laden foods are sought and consumed! As more is consumed behavior, cognition and memory are also altered. (2)
Today the Sugar Monster has hit our society with the vengeance of a Greek god! Diabetes has soared. The CDC reports that just over 1 in 10 or 4.2 million Americans have diabetes and 88 million American adults, approximately 1 in 3, have prediabetes. (3) Obesity is rampant. In 2017–2018, the prevalence of obesity in adults was 42.4 percent of the American population. (4) Inflammation from high insulin and obesity has been found to contribute to hardening arteries and the increased incidence of heart disease. (5) No doubt the Sugar Monster is turning our bodies to stone!
Once inside, the Sugar Monster wreaks havoc on hormones, neurotransmitters, the circulatory system and fat deposition to name a few. Less visible is it’s influence on the gut bacteria! Chronic sugar intake alters the balance of the gut microbiome decreasing immune supportive “good bacteria” and increasing inflammatory “bad bacteria”. This allows the intestinal lining to become more permeable to toxins and lose its vital mucosal immunity. The composition, functionality and metabolic end products of gut bacteria are compromised and in turn can lead to autoimmune diseases, obesity and hormone imbalance. (6)
The release of the Sugar Monster has triggered widespread fear and panic with the associated diagnosis of multiple diseases and health challenges. It has brought wealth to manufacturers of food products and taken advantage of a society addicted to its venom. Medusa of old was finally killed when her head was cut off by an enterprising warrior who fought Medusa by using his shield to indirectly look at her and avoid being turned to stone. Surely it is possible to fight our Sugar Monster in a similar fashion. We must be enterprising modern day warriors and fight against sugar. Look for hidden sources in food labels, avoid purchasing obvious sources, turn to alternate natural sweetness found in fruit and vegetables and throw out home pantry stores of processed foods and sugar. Urgently gather forces to support you in your cause and rally the battle cry of freedom from addiction and the liberty to choose good food! In the end, if you don’t kill sugar, it may kill you!
3. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/features/diabetes-stat- report.html#:~:text=New%20in%202020%2C%20the%20report, 1%20in%203%E2%80%94have%20prediabetes
5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1483180/ #:~:text=Accelerated%20atherosclerosis%20in%20the%20setting,known%20as%20reverse%2 0cholesterol%20transport