Hall of Shame: Sugar

  • Welcome back to the hall of shame where we find everything from shoes to purses that can contribute to pain. Today our inductee is a historically popular item and arguably the world’s first drug: sugar. The apothecary’s of old used to keep a form of sugar on their shelves, sometimes in the form of honey or sometimes in the form of cane sugar. According to a royal French decree in 1353, apothecaries were not to use honey when sugar was prescribed.1


    Soon what was once a prescribed medicine quickly became a common household item available at every grocery store, restaurant and gas station.  America’s drug of choice is available without a prescription. The average American consumes 152 pounds of sugar per year. That equates to six cups per week or 312 cups per year. Where does all this sugar come from? A can of soda has 39 grams of sugar that equates to 10 cubes of sugar. Starbuck’s Mint Mocha Frappuccino has 14 teaspoons of sugar. A cube here, teaspoon here and tablespoon there, this all adds up to pounds of sugar every single year. Many adults and children are stuck in a cycle of sugar high’s and sugar low’s.

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    If sugar was still considered a drug, the pharmacists would have a difficult time keeping it on the shelves and the government would have a hard time controlling its consumption. The war on sugar was lost years ago.


    But maybe its time to take up arms again and put sugar into the hall of shame where it belongs; think about all the problems sugar causes. Years ago, sugar production was a major force in the slave trade and battles over land ownership. Today, sugar is known to be a major contributing factor in the poor health of people and the rising healthcare costs. Those who are living with chronic diseases, pain and disabilities should be especially concerned about their sugar consumption.


    One known fact is that inflammation is triggered by widely fluctuating blood sugar levels. The increased levels of inflammation are tracked by measuring the c-reactive protein levels or sedimentation levels. The inflammation levels are at their lowest when one is eating less sugar by following a low glycemic load diet.2 High levels of inflammation are associated with many types of painful conditions like arthritis, sciatica, neuropathy, and polymyalgia rheumatica. Inflammation is also linked to cardiovascular disease, dementia, and cancer.


    But most people don’t seem to be too concerned about the problems caused by sugar. Why stop consuming sugar when we have other therapies like anti-inflammatory medications, cardiac stents, and chemotherapy to fix the damage caused by sugar? The pleasure that sugar brings is too much to resist and is warping rational decision making. People would rather suffer the consequences than give sugar up. Just like the smokers that refuse to quit or the heroin addicts that just can’t get enough; the sweet-toothed people with their mouths full of cavities and their brains hooked on sugar refuse to recognize or care about the shameful consequences of being hooked on sugar.


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    1.         Bittersweet: The Story of Sugar; Peter Macinnis; 2002, Australia

    2.         J Nutr. 2012 Feb;142(2):369-74


    Additional Resources:


    Tips for Satisfying your Sweet Tooth


    How Much Sugar Is in Your Drink?


    How much Sugar do you Eat?


Published On: January 12, 2013