Is Sugar A Drug?

Is sugar a drug is the question I have heard quite a bit about in the past few days.  Jen over at From Fat To Finish Line sent me an email with a link to a 60 Minutes report done by Dr Sanjay Gupta.  This video was interesting in how it discussed how sugar is a drug.  How sugar is toxic.  There were Doctors and Dietitians discussing how the brain is pleasured by sugar similar to the way it is pleasured by drugs like cocaine.


Pure Maple Syrup and Raw Honey Are Not Added Sugars

The introduction to the video is how America is addicted to ADDED sugars and how that is plunging America into a health crisis.  From what I have read I can say that I don’t disagree with this.  I believe that sugar is addictive and that companies put sugar into just about everything because they know that it will create a desire to buy more.  In the end it is about the bottom line and companies are not here to help us get healthy, but instead to make a profit.  Look at the label of just about anything and you will see sugar in it.  It can be addictive no doubt, but the video starts out by saying that table sugar, honey and maple syrup are BAD FOODS.

Later on in the video they describe ADDED SUGARS as those that need to be curtailed and this is where I think a lot of confusion comes from.  How is honey and maple syrup a bad food but we are to cut back on ADDED sugars?  Can you see where my confusion is?  Honey has one ingredient and that is HONEY.  Maple Syrup has one ingredient sap from the Maple tree.  Of course honey and maple syrup can be made with added sugar which is why you purchase locally grown honey and those that are certified (you can read about that here.)  With Maple Syrup be sure to purchase PURE Maple Syrup and you will get just that and nothing that is a corn-syrup imitation.  The problem is the video doesn’t make a statement regarding the difference and thus the confusion can set in.  I was confused because I ran to my pantry to see how much sugar I was consuming in my 1 tablespoon of honey.

Of course the video does point out that nearly all processed food has hidden sugars.  It showcases yogurt, bread, pasta sauces and peanut butter.  As you know I have gone out and made my own bread and almond butter.  I also make my own sauce for my pasta.  I do consume So Delicious Coconut Milk Yogurt which has evaporated cane juice.  Now this sugar is described as ‘healthy alternative’ in this article because it does not undergo the same degree of processing that refined sugar does.  That sure sounds like an added sugar to me, and since this is my body I am going to classify it that way.  This means that 32 calories are from added sugars in a 4oz serving of this yogurt.


Is Sugar Toxic?

You may be asking yourself why do I care about the calories from added sugars.  The answer is that the video goes into great detail as to how many calories a person should limit their added sugars to.  For men it is 150 calories per day, and for women it is 100 calories.  These numbers come from Dr Lisig and was chosen because well I don’t know.  He wrote it in a paper but does not discuss why he came up with these numbers.  Why was this not pointed out?  I’m not sure.  That being said Dr Gupta points out that the amounts are equivalent to less than a can of soda.  This is a good thing in my opinion but I would still like some factual information as to why those numbers came up.

After watching the video I have taken up the process of looking at the nutritional label from a different perspective.  I’m looking at ingredients but I am now calculating the number of calories from sugar, but only IF it is not from a natural source.  That means that I am not counting honey as an added sugar.  From my calculations I am below the 150 calories per day.  What does this mean for my future?  I guess it means that I am not addicted to sugar and probably will not develop Type II diabetes or be obese thus I am not a drag on the American health care system (bike crash ER visit aside.)

If you are trying to figure out how many calories are from added sugars in your food and are scratching your head……stop and let me help you.  I spent some time trying to figure this out because the label shows Sugar in grams.  Well grams are not calories and you can’t just divide the number of grams in sugar by the number of carbohydrates and multiply by the fat grams and divide by protein grams.  What I found out is that you multiply the number of grams of sugar by 4 to get the number of calories.  Fairly simple.

You can watch the entire video here:



** If you would like to help educate America on what a healthy lifestyle is then please consider donating to Shape Up America.  This is a charitable organization that I have aligned myself with and am trying to raise funds so that they can spread the word of what a healthy lifestyle consists of (diet and exercise by the way.)  If you can donate $1 then please do so.  The link to donate is in the right hand side bar —–> and all you have to do is elect the amount you care to donate.  If you want to have a personal reason then how about the fact that I’m racing Ironman Texas on May 19th and you can donate $.10 per every mile I race that day or the equivalent of $14.  Thank you for considering a donation. **

Print Friendly

Related posts:


  1. Matt Oravec says:


    Seriously, people are just idiots. They stuff their faces w/ anything they can get their fat grubby hands on.

    I am guilty.

    However, I make a conscious effort to eat healthy 90% of the time.

    I am not addicted to sugars. I just honestly LOVE maple syrup :)
    Matt Oravec recently posted..Composting, Heather shoots me w/ gun, and TrainingMy Profile

    • CTER says:

      I love honey. Love it and I only buy locally grown wildflower honey from Texas. It is so much richer tasting and I could honestly just pour it straight into my mouth.

      I have been using honey instead of pure maple syrup on my pancakes and waffles. I may have to change it up a bit and get a small bottle of pure maple syrup one day and have choices.
      CTER recently posted..Is Sugar A Drug?My Profile

    • i was PSYCHED to see VERMONT maple syrup!!!!! Yay, Vermont!
      i have yet to watch the 60 minute program, so i am saving my other comments. I have it on dvr, though….
      gene @boutdrz recently posted..Aggressive or Passive. The choice is YOURS.My Profile

  2. Have you read the book “The End of Overeating”? It’s gets a little technical/science-y for my taste (that says a lot since I enjoy nutritional sciences), but it goes into detail on the fat/sugar/salt addiction, specifically how the brain reacts to it.

    My pediatrician swears up and down that sugar intake and blood sugar levels don’t have an effect on behavior, but I don’t agree (show me a person that gets grumpy when hungry and tell me there is not a blood sugar/behavior link).

    Can people be addicted to sugar? Sure, but people can be addicted to anything. How do you define addiction? People are addicted to carbs, coffee, dt coke, meat, gambling, exercising, hoarding, couponing…… Are some people going to be more sensitive in terms of how their body reacts to sugar? Also yes (the same way different people have intolerances to a host of other ingredients).

    Does the added sugar in processed foods have a negative impact on our health? Again, yes, but it is not the sole offender – there are so many other bad ingredients in processed foods – how do you single one out?

    Our motto in our house – whole = good, processed = bad. We have really cut down on the processed foods that we consume. I don’t watch our sugar intake, but we’re just not a family that has a bunch of processed foods in the house. The highest sugar intake probably comes in the form of yogurt and bread (although I haven’t checked the bread label). I don’t worry about honey, but we only use it for homemade salad dressing, not much else. I will put a little organic sugar in our pancakes and waffles – but I find this to be less offensive than buying a packaged mix.

    Do we have such a short attention span as a nation that we need ONE ingredient to blame all our health problems on? Eggs are bad – no eggs are ok! Saturated fat is bad! GMO’s are bad! No, wait, sugar is the answer to obesity!

    All things in moderation. Good article (I may link back to you). Good luck with your fundraising!
    Bridie @ I Heart Veggies recently posted..Make It Yourself Monday: Homemade Healthy Pizza!My Profile

    • CTER says:

      Bridie – I have not read that book but will put it on the reading list for sure. Thank you for the recommendation.

      I agree with you that it gets confusing and that is why I pointed out that this video starts off mis-leading. Honey and Maple Syrup in their purest forms are not added sugars but the Dr never points that out. Nor does he make a reference as to where the 150/100 calories of added sugar comes from. I’m sure he has some data to back that up but it would have been nice to hear it instead of just saying it.

      I agree with you also on the processed stuff. I make my own bread, pizza crust, bagels, pasta. I don’t use jarred sauce either. I am getting closer and closer to just having a homebased restaurant that is farm to table at this point. I feel much stronger and have a ton more energy than ever before and I credit that to my food. My food has given me the ability to train 15 – 20 hours per week and get stronger as well.

      Thank you for the well wishes on the fund raising. The more we can educate society the better off we will all be.
      CTER recently posted..Is Sugar A Drug?My Profile

  3. Bob says:

    “A substance that has a physiological effect when ingested or otherwise introduced into the body”…. I had to look up the definition of “drug”…

    Yep, that fits the bill…

    I guess I am going to have to look for something other than EFS for my next race….

    Nah….. hell, I’m a junkie and I admit it…. I guess 12 stepping is my next stop….

    But then again, IMing is my drug also, so I am confused…

    Help me Jason…
    Bob recently posted..Cross trainingMy Profile

    • CTER says:

      HA HA!

      I love EFS as well so that is not going anywhere. Just need to cut out sugars on other days I guess. If we get 150 calories per day that is 1050 per week. If we do EFS and use up 700 of those then we only have 350 remaining right?

      BTW – are you signed up for the First Endurance Newsletter? Kona Mocha is 20% to those subscribed to the newsletter. I’ll be ordering some.
      CTER recently posted..Is Sugar A Drug?My Profile

  4. katie says:

    is sugar a drug? yes. a delicious drug.
    katie recently posted..mostly wordless wednesdayMy Profile

  5. marlene says:

    I can definitely see sugar as being addictive, and I am most definitely addicted to it. I try to choose natural sugars for the most part, but I have a lot of weaknesses in that department. Not sure how many calories of added sugar I am consuming… not sure I want to know! ha!
    marlene recently posted..WIAW + Weigh-In WednesdayMy Profile

  6. Even thouhg honey and maple syrup are processed, my thought is that they should be healthier than al lthe sugar that goes into other foods. I’m thinking that all the hidden sugar is the true culprit. Sugar, like most things, is not toxic in moderation.
    Kovas – Midwest Multisport Life recently posted..Snowboarding at BreckenridgeMy Profile

  7. Jon says:

    Nice post Jason!

    I am gonna go guzzle a gallon on Maple Syrup now :)
    Jon recently posted..Accomplishing goals is a bad thing?My Profile

  8. XLMIC says:

    Apparently, the way the body processes honey and maple syrup is very similar to the way it processes sugar, cane juice, corn syrup…added sugars…which is why they get put in that category even though they are ‘natural’. I really wish I had the time and energy to do a link-supported, sugar-is-evil post…maybe later this month…I’m a little tapped after my anti-chocolate milk post!

    Yes, sugar is a drug…”a chemical substance that affects the processes of the mind or body.”

    Thanks for opening up this topic!
    XLMIC recently posted..Samurai Trail Running…with minor injuriesMy Profile

  9. Jen says:

    Thanks Jason for the shout out.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this and it’s driving me a little bonkers actually. I don’t generally use a lot of outside sugars and have kicked all artificial sweeteners out of my life. I am keeping more of an eye on labels and trying to eat as lean and clean as possible – with as little added sugar as possible…
    Jen recently posted..Food for thought: Gluten, organics, sugar, oh myMy Profile

  10. Jeff Irvin says:

    Annie just bought a nice be jug of honey! I might go drink it now …lol.
    Jeff Irvin recently posted..Ironman Mont-Tremblant Training Week #1My Profile

  11. Patrick says:

    Ok, when i first Saw that picture of the sugar, I thought it was a still shot from and old Duran Duran video. Then I felt like I needed to poop. Joke.
    Patrick recently posted..So, What’s Next?My Profile

  12. I was so glad to see this information go mainstream. A lot of what he said is already common knowledge for us health and fitness bloggers, but the general public is still in the dark. Even if a couple people watched 60 minutes and made some changes to their diet after seeing that, I think it’s great. Just the beginning (I hope). After doing a 10 day sugar free challenge last year, I completely agree that sugar is toxic. Feeling the withdrawals my body went thru initially, then experiencing how clear-headed and energetic and just generally GOOD I felt without sugaring poisoning my body and mind. Since then I’ve made a conscious effort to keep sugar out of the house for the most part. It’s hard because added sugar is literally in EVERYTHING, but the extra effort is worth it.
    Thanks for sharing Jason!
    Haley @ Climb Run Lift Mom recently posted..Climbing with Kiddos!My Profile

  13. While I agree with the general findings of the study, the way that the media reports on these studies is always so sensational. There is a good article on about differentiating between natural and added sugars. Everything in moderation, natural and clean sources of food are always preferred.

    Thanks for the well thought out post as usual. recently posted..Three Things Thursday – the whiny, bad day editionMy Profile

  14. Jessica says:

    Love the post. I think I might be addicted to sugar and soda. Both are things I crave if I start to get out of hand with my diet. It’s definitely worth sitting down an analyzing how much calories you get from sugar. Salt is another one that I don’t add much to my food but I have seen others feel like they need to put extra amounts into everything they eat.
    Jessica recently posted..Mini Me’s 5K RecapMy Profile

  15. I saw that video too and it’s funny b/c I actually wanted to email you to see what your opinion of it was! Ha ha. So, I do think too much sugar is definitely a bad thing, but I also think that people need to think of the bigger picture…what are you eating? If you’re eating mainly processed foods, than that’s just not healthy. BUT, if you tend to eat more whole foods and use natural sweeteners, than I just don’t see the harm in that. Honestly, there are so many worse things we can put into our bodies.
    Aimee (I Tri To Be Me) recently posted..Newly Found MotivationMy Profile

  16. Matt – I don’t think this is a case of people just being idiots. Sugar is indeed addictive, and like many drugs, it’s more addictive to some people than others. I’m not saying it’s as habit-forming as heroin, but it does cause the body to release dopamine – THE chemical of positive feedback and addiction. Sugar addiction and constantly elevated / fluctuating blood sugar are why it’s so hard for obese people to “just stop” eating.
    David@Florida Inpatient Treatment recently posted..Value Options Insurance for Rehab – Complying with HIPAA GuidelinesMy Profile

  17. Pamela M. says:

    Sugar can absolutely be a drug! Especially fructose. A scientist named Dr. Robert Lustig has recently done some very interesting research on this subject. Fructose is one of the only substances which is NEVER toxic when found in nature. Think about it- plants “want” mammals to eat their fruit and spread the seeds! Unfortunately, the modern food industry has made fructose available in abundance. It’s super-sweet, and it triggers the same hormonal releases as drugs. People joke about “sugar cravings,” but they are definitely real.
    Pamela M. recently posted..Inpatient Rehab: What Really Happens During Drug Treatment updated Wed May 2 2012 7:59 pm EDTMy Profile

  18. rene says:

    Dr. Lustig’s also stresses the importance of fiber in the diet. Eating a whole orange is probably better than drinking the juice by itself, and even better if you are burning it off with exercise.

  19. Kevin says:

    I have no science in front of me to back this up but aren’t there studies that show that a runner’s high (endorphines) affect the brain similarly to a drug/cocaine high? It doesn’t seem like that is a valid reason on why sugar would be bad for you. Not arguing that an excessive amount is bad for you, just that it is a horrible comparison.

    I’m sticking with my anything in moderation diet. :)
    Kevin recently posted..Three Things TuesdayMy Profile

  20. Buy Plastic Packaging

Speak Your Mind


CommentLuv badge

%d bloggers like this: