I work with several clients with type-2 diabetes. One of the primary causes of this dreaded disease is high sugar intake. Sugar intake, obesity, and diabetes rates are approaching epidemic proportions. Some interesting research has been done at Princeton University regarding sugar intake and chemical dependency. Nicole Avena, working with the late Bart Hobel, found that rats showed signs of dependency when exposed to sugar for only a few hours a day. “When animals get sugar, they’ll overeat,” she explains. “And they’ll show more tolerance to it-they eat more and more each day, perhaps to feel the same euphoria. If we take the sugar away, they’ll show signs of withdrawal-anxiety, tremors, and shakes,” she adds. “And they’ll show evidence of craving for sugar. They’re willing to work harder to get at sugar, and they show behaviors to suggest that they’re seeking the sugar.” “The same addiction seems to ring true in humans,” says Kelley Brownell, who directs Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity. A study in 2009 by Brownell and his colleague Ashley Gerhardt found that 11 percent of 350 test subjects met the criteria for substance abuse-in this case for certain foods, and sugar was at the top of the list of foods for ‘food dependence’. Many reported a loss of control when eating, a persistent desire to cut back, and heavy use despite deleterious consequences. The big question: Why? “Can you make the case that the brain is being hijacked enough by certain foods that you’ve got a public health crisis? To find the answers, some scientist’s zeroed in on how the brain’s response to some foods can parallel its response to drugs. In 2001, Nora Volkow and her colleagues at the Brookhaven National Laboratory published a groundbreaking study called “Brain Dopamine and Obesity.”  The results blew everyone away. Very obese people had lower levels of dopamine in the ‘reward’ areas of their brains than did people who were normal weight. “These brain scans were game-changers'” says Pamela Peeke, assistant clinical professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “Because this is precisely the same thing that happens in meth heads, cocaine addicts, alcoholics, and other addicts.” Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that motivates us to eat (and engage in sex and other ‘rewarding’ behaviors). It reflects wanting more than liking. Animals that lack dopamine starve to death because they have no motivation (no want) to eat (have you seen some of the meth addicts?). Long story short; certain foods (or drugs) that are abused lower the dopamine response so that people who consume them don’t get the reward they want; end result being they want more and more because they are never satisfied.  Can any food be addictive? Sugar has been studied far more than anything else, and as stated above, certainly fits the addictive category. But, according to two new studies, there is help on the horizon. The first looked at the antioxidant spice turmeric, known for its anti-inflammatory properties. A randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled study of subjects with suboptimal blood sugar metabolism and kidney function found that those supplementing with turmeric significantly enhanced several parameters of kidney function, with the end result being improvement in blood sugar levels. Kidney function is related to healthy blood sugar metabolism. The placebo group showed no such results. Tumeric dosage was 500 mg three times daily for   two months. The second study reports that alpha lipoic acid (ALA) supports normal blood sugar metabolism. ALA is a potent antioxidant that is unique in that it is both water and fat-soluble, allowing it to function throughout the body. ALA is a naturally occurring compound is a cofactor for several enzymes involved in glucose metabolism, and promotes the uptake of glucose (blood sugar) by the cells. 57 subjects with suboptimal blood sugar metabolism were supplemented with 300 mg ALA per day or a placebo for two months duration. The subjects were evaluated for levels of fasting blood sugar, 2-hour post meal blood sugar, and serum insulin. The study found that ALA enhanced normal blood sugar metabolism, and there was significant enhancement of insulin sensitivity (less insulin needed to clear blood sugar) and blood sugar metabolism. Turmeric and ALA are inexpensive supplements-I include both in my daily dietary regimen. Note: To increase turmeric absorption, add a sprinkle of black pepper into whatever you wash it down with.

Stay well, John R Blilie, M.S.