The Relationship Between
Sugar and Alcoholism
"Sugar has often been considered the bio-chemical root cause of alcohol addiction."
ARTICLE: Does a Sweet Tooth Mean Alcoholism?
An affinity for sweets appears to be a marker for those at risk of developing alcoholism. This could be because both sugar and alcohol affect the same pleasure area of the brain.
Sugar-addicts beware; an affinity for sweets appears to be a marker for those at risk of developing alcoholism. While previous studies have found a sugar-alcohol link in both humans and animals, this study finds that sugar addiction may predict alcoholism.
Lead author Alexei Kampov-Polevoy, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, recruited 163 college-age social drinkers. Half of the participants had a paternal history of alcoholism while the other half did not.
Kampov and colleagues asked each participant to rate a series of sugar solutions that increased in concentration. They judged each for sweetness and palatability. Our hedonic reaction -- how much we enjoy sugar -- is something we are born with, not something we learn later in life, notes Kampov.
Participants with a paternal history of alcoholism were 2.5 times more likely to enjoy sweets. Also, they were more likely to dislike the most diluted sugar solutions. Kampov suggests that the opioid system -- the part of the brain impacted by both sugar and alcohol -- is oversensitive in these subjects.
Researchers say in the future a simple test may help identify who is at risk for developing alcoholism long before one takes his first drink. The study was published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.
By: Colin Allen
What If Alcoholism Has It's Roots In Sugar Addiction?
What would you say if someone told you that alcoholism has its roots in sugar addiction? Problems with overconsumption of alcohol often begin with eating habits as children.
Since all alcoholic drinks contain sugar, it is a wonder that this association is often overlooked. A 12-ounce beer has about 13 grams of carbohydrates in it. So if you have five beers over the course of one evening, that’s 65 grams of carbohydrates in four to five hours (or less, depending on how fast you drink).
If you believe this line of thinking to be faulty, it is imperative to see the film “SuperSize Me“. In documentary style, this movie shows what happens when one person goes on a binge for 30 days and eats nothing but McDonald’s food.
You may be wondering about the connection between alcohol and McDonald’s (aka sugar and chemical overload). Keep reading. The man in the film is monitored by three different doctors during his journey into destroying his body. Although the example put forth in the film is an extreme one, it shows why this diet or anything like it is a poor one to undertake.
During day 22 of the experiment, his doctors conduct blood tests on his liver to determine the extent of the damage. The results are unbelievable. His liver is in the same condition as someone who had been on a long alcoholic binge: thus firmly establishing the sugar-alcohol connection.
McDonald’s foods are highly processed, full of chemicals, and most importantly, wrought with simple carbohydrates which are the same thing as sugar. Alcohol in all forms also contains…you guessed it, sugar.
Studies have shown that people who display unhealthy eating habits and abuse sugar have similarities to those who are so-called alcoholics. Many people who become alcoholics in their adult years regularly kept unhealthy diets as children and adolescents.
The pattern is a predictable one that is often also underpinned by unstable emotional environments. When a child is allowed to consume refined sugar “foods” that regularly replace nutritious foods, this sets up the perfect beginning to a life of poor choices for health.
Children are easily made to believe by their parents and other authority figures, that various foods regularly eaten by the whole of society are actually good for them, and contain substantive nutrition.
Although sugar is not technically in the same category as alcohol or drugs, food with refined sugars and processed flour as well as candies and desserts represent the initial stepping stone to sugar consumption that can plateau out as alcohol abuse in adolescents and adults. On a fundamental level, all are addictive substances because they each contain one key ingredient – carbohydrates or simple sugars.
When sugar is introduced into the body, a reaction occurs where the blood sugar achieves a high point causing the body to go into hyperactivity mode. This process often leads to the mistaken diagnosis of ADD or ADHD. Drugs such as Ritalin are often prescribed to level out the chemicals in the child’s brain that are considred “abnormal”.
What is not addressed are the large amounts of refined sugars consumed by these same children, as well as lack of adequate physical activity and supportive emotional relationships with famliy members.
Children who consume large amounts of refined sugar in their diets are much more likely to go on and become drug or alcohol abusers later in life – especially when these other conditions are present.
Here’s something interesting: the food pyramid tells us that we should eat 6 to 11 servings of whole grains each day. But the vast majority of “whole grain” choices in our food environments are far from whole grains. On a continual basis, we are lied to on labels about what is contained in many foods we buy in the store.
Simply taking the time to read the list of ingredients will immediately reveal that a good majority of these foods are not whole grain, have been enriched, are not a natural source of vitamins or nutrients, and contain added sugars and other chemicals that are dangerous to consume.
Even if we did consume all whole grains in those servings, which would be difficult at best, we would be consuming far too many carbohydrates for our own good compared to other important nutrient, mineral, and vitamin-containing foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, and healthy proteins like antibiotic and hormone free meats and raw dairy products (in moderation, of course). And that doesn’t even include all the junk-related and refined sugar foods we consume on a daily basis, nor sugary beverages (alcoholic beverages included).
The body requires proper nutrition and support to function on an optimal level. Most of what people put in their mouths does not support the complex system that is the human body. When a person is working at a stressful job and does not have time to prepare wholesome, nutritious meals, a decline in health is inevitable.
Many people believe that what they are eating is healthy when it isn’t because consumers have been repeatedly lied to and mislead about nutrition. Corporations have in their best interest to sell what tastes good to consumers, not what is nutritious. Even though there is a wealth of information available about sugar and alcohol consumption, people tend to overindulge since food and drink containing sugar is so prevalent and easy to come by.
Everywhere we look there are more temptations to purchase and eat the things that we shouldn’t, and not nearly enough emphasis on organic, whole, healthy foods. When you go to a restaurant or bar and order a drink, how often do you stop at just one? How often do you have two, three, four, or five?
When you go to a restaurant to eat, think about how many items on your plate are full of refined carbohydrates versus a whole, natural food. When the server comes to take your plates at the end of a meal, how many times are you offered dessert as an ending to your visit? Almost every time.
Anxiety and depression, the two basic human emotional disturbances, are perpetuated by unhealthy lifestyles such as lack of activity, overloads of stress, improper rest, and you guessed it — eating poorly. When people encounter stress, their bodies respond by telling them they need more support – sleep, exercise, healthy food and whole food supplements, plenty of purified water, and adequate stress relief.
The average American lifestyle fails to include the right combination of these important components. For stress relief and boredom, many people turn to eating refined sugar foods and beverages, drinking, and drug use. Unhealthy snacks and foods are so convenient and readily available, people have a tendency to load up on those kinds of foods rather than taking time to prepare a healthy meal or snack instead. The more we consume these kinds of foods, the more we crave them.
When you visit the grocery store, notice which foods are the most visible and prevalent on the aisles. Just pick up a box or a can of any food and read the ingredients. If you cannot make heads or tails of what they are, why should you be eating or drinking it? Any food or drink product that contains more than three or four ingredients should automatically be a red flag to any consumer.
When we consume such massive amounts of sugar, run ourselves into the ground with stress and busy schedules, fail to get adequate exercise and rest, it’s no wonder our bodies fail. Patients would rather end up at the doctor asking for medication to deal with symptoms they experience as a result of the abuse their bodies are receiving than commit to making a real, healthy lifestyle change.
To learn more about sugar addiction and how it can be linked to alcohol and drug abuse later in life, visit the following web sites:
The Society for Neuroscience.
Sweet Tooth, Alcoholism Linked
This article was featured in the October 2007 issue of Healthy Beginnings.