Are We Doping Our Kids?

Halloween is right around the corner and yes that means “Trick-or-Treat” extravaganzas when our precious little ones devour ridiculous amounts of their favorite food group: Candy!  This is one of today’s contributing expert JJ Virgin’s favorite topic and I am exited to share her insight with you below.



America’s Number One Addiction Might Shock You

by JJ Virgin

“I wanted to do it alone,” a client told me. “I didn’t want anyone else around. Minutes after I began, I felt this rush of euphoria and I couldn’t stop. Then came the inevitable crash, where I wanted to curl up in the fetal position watching Friends reruns.”

If you’re concerned my client had a drug addiction, you’re not far off. Sugar had become her drug of choice, and constantly grazing on even so-called healthy hidden-sugar foods had trained her body to demand it constantly.

“Being addicted to sugar and flour is not an emotional eating disorder,” says Dr. Mark Hyman, author of The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet. “It’s a biological disorder, driven by hormones and neurotransmitters that fuel sugar and carb cravings — leading to uncontrolled overeating. It’s the reason nearly 70 percent of Americans and 40 percent of kids are overweight.” 

 You might find it hard to believe a bag of chips or chocolate bar could create such catastrophe, but those and other processed foods send a rush of sugar that alerts your brain’s reward center to release feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and beta endorphin.

These endorphins respond to dietary triggers. When you eat a fatty, sugary food – say, a chocolate chip cookie – they really come out to party. The endorphin surge gives you intense pleasure and blocks pain, the same as if you had just injected heroin.

Considering the average American eats 22 teaspoons of added sugar, largely from processed foods and fizzy drinks, those several daily feel-good surges can become quite a habit.


Photo Credit: Haywire Media via

Sugar: The New Cocaine?

A decade ago, critics appeared skeptical sugar could become addictive. Yet as new studies emerge and prominent experts speak out, sugar addiction has become a legitimate, concerning focus as sugar consumption, particularly as high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), escalates.

“Animal studies have shown that refined sugar is more addictive than cocaine, heroin or morphine,” says As Dr. Pamela Peeke, author of The Hunger Fix. “An animal will choose an Oreo over morphine. Why? This cookie has the perfect combination of sugar and fat to hijack the brain’s reward center.” Hyman believes sugar can be eight times more addictive than cocaine.

Outlandish as those claims might seem, studies verify them. One published in the journal NeuroReport argues that “palatable food stimulates neural systems implicated in drug dependence.” Another study published in the journal Archives of General Psychology found a food addict’s brain operates similarly to a drug addict when they think about eating sugary, fatty foods. 

It’s not just the immediate gratification that creates damage. Sugar addiction also sets the stage for future hunger, cravings, and food intolerances.

One study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found high-sugar impact foods trigger the nucleus accumbens, your brain region that controls reward and craving. Researchers noted this domino addictive pattern plays a “special significance to eating behavior at the next meal.”

Dr. Robert Lustig, an American pediatric endocrinologist at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), has become a vocal sugar-as-addiction proponent. Lustig’s lecture “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” has almost five million YouTube hits. 

“His meta-analysis of the cutting-edge research on large-cohort studies of what sugar does to populations across the world, alongside his own clinical observations, has him credited with starting the war on sugar,” writes Zoe William in The Guardian. “When it reaches the enemy status of tobacco, it will be because of Lustig.”

Lustig believes sugar creates serious hormonal havoc. High blood sugar elevates insulin, which blocks your satiety hormone leptin. High levels of cortisol, your stress hormone, increase your urge for comfort foods. High cortisol during sleep increases ghrelin, your hunger hormone, so you’re more likely to ask for a stale donut the next morning with your caffeine fix.

Other hormones become disrupted too, but you get the domino-effect point. From that hormonal havoc, you can begin to understand how sugar addiction occurs. With the right strategies, you can free yourself even if you’ve been an addict for years or decades.

Freeing Yourself from Sugar Addiction

The good news is with the right strategies, you can break your sugar addiction in just weeks. Eventually, you begin to crave these foods rather than a big piece of peanut butter chocolate pie. You might not believe me if you’re a current sugar junkie, but I’ve witnessed former addicts crave the natural sweetness of berries, vanilla, and roasted almonds.

Sugar could be holding you hostage in ways you’re not even aware. Bottled drinks, vinaigrette dressings, and glazed meats are among the many “sneaky sugars” that add up around your waistline.

You needn’t surrender all these foods cold turkey. In fact, I’d rather you didn’t. In my new book The Sugar Impact Diet, I’ll show you a cutting-edge, withdrawal-free way to gradually taper off sugar so you never feel deprived.

The biggest step to conquer sugar addiction is with your fork. Pile on the clean, lean protein, stock your fridge with fresh veggies and hummus, and keep nuts and seeds at the ready on your countertop. They’ll keep your serotonin levels even and will help keep your amped-up food-reward cycle in check. A steady supply of sugar to the brain from slow carbs actually helps your mental clarity and focus.

As your taste buds come alive again, you’ll learn to appreciate spicy and savory foods like Cajun spices, salsas, garlic, and onions. You’ll ratchet up the flavor in your foods until you can appreciate the way they burst!

As a sugar addict, you may not even realize that your diet is bland. Not only because you’re eating one-dimensional high-sugar impact foods, but because you’ve also lost your ability to truly taste.

Once people become sugar detectives, they become amazed at how sneaky added sugars can become. What’s one food you once thought healthy that you actually learned contained hidden sugar? Share your thoughts below.


JJVirginAbout JJ Virgin, CN, CHSF

New York Times Best Selling Author JJ Virgin is a prominent fitness and nutrition expert, public speaker and media personality.

Internationally recognized as an expert in overcoming weight loss resistance (a self-coined term to describe people who do everything correctly and still can’t attain weight loss), JJ has helped thousands attain fast weight loss by addressing food sensitivities, food allergies, and other food intolerances. Clients feel better fast and get fast, lasting fat loss when they drop her 7 highly reactive foods.



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  1. Wow, I don’t even know how much sugar we have daily. I think one of the places we have to start is with our pop intake. I think I’d do ok, but my boys, that’s a whole other story!

    • That’s a great place to start Mimi! It may be hard at first to break the addiction but have faith, you’ll get there! Just stay committed and take things one day at a time. When your boys see how much better you feel when you cut back on sugar they’ll have an easier time making the adjustment. Try replacing some of their sodas with home made natural sodas — add some sparkling water to organic fruit juices to start… If they are resistant try making it into a contest of some sort with a fun reward..

  2. I agree. I am one of those people ADDICTED to sugar. I am obese and have started diets and failed SO MANY times. I have lost a lot of weight, then fallen off and gained more back than I lost. It is SUCH a struggle. When I do a low carb/sugar diet, the weight falls off, which goes to show me what my problem area is. It is such a hard habit to kick!

    • I’m sorry it’s been such a struggle for you Michelle, but as you can see it’s not really your fault. Sugar is like cocaine.. It’s a highly addicted drug. And since it is added to just about everything from salad dressings, to catchup, soups and so forth, it’s hard to avoid it altogether. But have faith. Hold onto to that feeling you experience when you are able to cut back or eliminate carbs and sugar and let that become a motivator for you. You may want to work with a coach or ask a close friend to be your partner in getting rid of the sugar. And if there is anything I can do to support you please reach out and let me know.

  3. I definitely see a lot of people that have sugar addiction. I know I do! Fortunately my kids don’t. We have sugar on a sparing basis probably because of my own addiction. Today is a hard day to go trick or treating and not get over filled on candy but usually after a few days my kids forget about their candy and I start tossing it.

    • I applaud you Holly for making sure your kids don’t get too much sugar. These days that is very are to achieve. We’ve started giving out toys instead of candy and I’ve seen more and more families doing the same so the girls come home with a little less candy each year. Amazingly enough, we’ve managed to keep candy for months! I’ve placed in a giant jar and allow 1 piece a day and that seems to keep my girls satisfied.

  4. I know that I have an insane sweet tooth. I find myself craving sugar immediately after lunch. The trouble is once I start, it’s so hard to stop. I’m so much better off if I avoid sugary snacks all together.

    • Once you start it’s hard to stop is the real problem indeed Crystal, and why so many health experts are calling sugar the new cocaine. It is highly addictive and present in just about every store bought food from cereals to salad dressing, soups and everything in between. And as we are learning it is detrimental to our health so we need to purge it from our diets and that of our children. You’ll find that when you do remove sugar from your diet and savor the amazing variety of flavors you find in foods in their organic whole and wholesome state, your palate opens up and you stat to loose your cravings 🙂

  5. I got tired of throwing out the Halloween candy.. so this year we went to the grandparents to trick-or-treat and then spent the night rollerskating all dressed up. We had a blast and now I have less sugar in the house to tempt me.:)

    • That sounds like a fun and fit Halloween to me Andrea! We’ve replaced candy with fun toys in our home and I’m hoping this becomes a cathy trend… No one needs pounds of candy around the house 😉

  6. I have no idea how much sugar we eat – but I have a MAJOR sweet tooth, so I always have sweets around. I limit how much my kids have, though.

    • I think most Americans have a sweet tooth Sara because we’ve been trained to have it since sugar is added to EVERYTHING from ketchup to soups and salad dressing and the only way to avoid it completely is to choose products with no sugar added and avoid it when you make home cooked meals. I’m glad you limit your children’s intake and I would encourage you to keep a food/ sugar journal for a few weeks to get a better sense of how much you are actually consuming. I suspect you’ll be surprised by the results.

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