Is sugar a drug? Many studies have shown that sugar is just as habit forming as any narcotic and therefore that physical withdrawals from sugar are real. When we consume sugar our blood glucose levels rise, this equals an energy and mood boost, in effect a temporary ‘high’. When our sugar ‘hits’ are taken away it is common to notice accompanying periods of low energy, even depression, coupled with a craving for sugar-loaded food. So if your 2014 fitness regime includes cutting back on the chocolate and this is sending you a bit loco, be reassured you are not going crazy.
Breaking up with sugar is hard, because our love affair with the seductive white granules has been a long one. It was first brought to Australia aboard the First Fleet and was even included in convict food rations. Sugar was in high demand as a sweetener, also as a key ingredient in the production of alcohol and by 1817 the Royal Botanic Gardens was growing an experimental sugar crop. In 1868 there were nine sugar mills in NSW producing 60 tons of sugar per year and our love of the sweet stuff was cemented into our national cuisine.
But there is a dark side to this sugary story and it’s a serious medical one; diabetes – the world’s fastest growing chronic disease. Glucose is the main source of energy for the body and it comes from our food. The body breaks down carbohydrates to form glucose, which enters the blood stream, then moves into our cells. The hormone insulin is needed for the glucose to enter our cells.
Diabetes occurs when the body does not make insulin, or the insulin that is made doesn’t work properly resulting in a glucose rise until there is too much in the blood, leading to the medical condition of diabetes.
Enter the Australian Diabetes Council, whose aim is to ensure those who have diabetes or are at risk of the disease, have access to the care and support they need to manage their health. They raise awareness around diabetes prevention and for those living with the disease they provide practical management with the day-to-day challenges. Their mission is to prevent diabetes and all its complications which they do through education programs, research and advocacy. Best of all you don’t have to travel, they have a wonderful centre right here in the West End. This busy spot is full of practical help and useful resources and the warm front desk staff are a wealth of information.
On a broader front the Australian Diabetes Council co-ordinate, run and manage education and lifestyle programs for the general community and for specialist health professionals. The Council also conduct research and truly live their vision, which is to make a positive difference in the lives of people living with and at risk of diabetes. Their work is inspiring, so let’s raise a toast to them – with a sugar-free beverage of course!
Now back to my opening question – is sugar a drug? In the United States two organisations, Youth Speaks and the UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations, have teamed up with American school students to create a provocative rap-inspired video equating today’s sugar consumption to drug addiction. The video, ‘Pushin’ weight’, can be seen on YouTube – you’ll never look at sugar the same way again.
For assistance finding a diabetes health professional in your area or to speak to a diabetes educator, dietician or exercise physiologist contact the Australian Diabetes Council Customer Care Line on 1300 342 2381300 342 238 during business hours. Website: www.australiandiabetescouncil.com. Their local office is at 535 Hunter Street, Newcastle West. Phone: 4929 6970. More about the Youth Speaks and the UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations campaign, The Bigger Picture, on Facebook: www.facebook.com/thebiggerpicturecampaign
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