Sugar and our Hormones

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It’s Easter season, which outside of religious practices, means candy, candy and more candy for a lot of Americans. Peeps, Cadbury Eggs, jelly beans are just a few of the hallmarks of this spring holiday. But, along with our growing waistline, scientists and Americans are both scrutinizing our diet and a common culprit seems to repeatedly point back to the white stuff. Even CBS News, 60 Minutes is looking at the toxicity of sugar. Is candy and sugar in our diet really the cause of America’s obesity and health problems? It’s now estimated that the average American consumes up to 180 lbs of added sugar per year. Here’s another statistic that demonstrates the increase of sugar in our diets over the years:

  • In 1700, the average person consumed about 4 pounds of sugar per year.
  • In 1800, the average person consumed about 18 pounds of sugar per year.
  • In 1900, individual consumption had risen to 90 pounds of sugar per year.
  • In 2009, more than 50 percent of all Americans consume one-half pound of sugar per person
  • DAY—translating to a whopping 180 pounds of sugar per year!

“Walk away from the Peeps, Ma’am!” might be what you’re telling yourself, but this sugar epidemic is out of control thanks to the highly processed foods and soft drinks where sugar hides under a variety of names. Here are some fancier names for sugar:

Sucrose, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), corn syrup, maltodextrin, maltose, syrup, mannitol, molasses, ethyl maltol, fruit juice, fruit juice concentrate, diatase, cane sugar, caramel, carob syrup, barley malt, beet sugar, C12H22O11,

But, that’s not all. There are as many names for sugar as Eskimos have for snow. As the public becomes more aware of the many dangers of sugar, the food industry has to try to hide it under different names.

Is it ironic or coincidental that this heavenly, legal substance that give us so much pleasure looks identical to illegal drugs such as cocaine, meth, heroine? In my opinion the only difference is that sugar is a legal drug. Am I exaggerating? No, actually I’m not. In a recent study where rats were given the choice between water, sugar and cocaine the rats choose … SUGAR! This is vital information for you and your family’s health because when you start cutting sugar out of your diet you will likely go through withdrawal symptoms as you would with any addictive substance. As an adult you can cope with the headaches, irritability and fatigue; but if you are cutting sugar out of a child’s diet they won’t understand what is happening to their body. Something to be aware of as a parent when you start cutting processed foods and sugary treats out of your children’s diet.

I’m sure some of you are reading this thinking, I’m not diabetic, this doesn’t apply to me. What if I told you that your high cholesterol and muffin top is more likely linked to the sugar than bacon? Interested now? To break it down barney-style, sugar (whether it be white rice, processed bread, soda, lemonade, plain ol’ sugar in your coffee) turns into glucose in your body. Your body releases insulin, a hormone, to cleanse the blood. What your body can’t use immediately as energy is stored in the liver and fat tissue of the body for later use. When you overload your system with sugar, your whole body has to work overtime to clean it out of your system and this means putting its everyday tasks aside to deal with this toxic overload. So, instead of processing healthy fats, proteins, good carbs, etc., your system is processing junk. Then, it has to do its normal jobs after that. No wonder you’re so tired and lethargic all the time – you’re forcing your whole body to work double shifts everytime you reach for that candy bar or soda!


Can it get worst? Actually, yes. In 2007, Child and Family Resource Institute released findings that sugar disrupts the sex hormones as well.

“Glucose and fructose are metabolized in the liver. When there’s too much sugar in the diet, the liver converts it to lipid. Using a mouse model and human liver cell cultures, the scientists discovered that the increased production of lipid shut down a gene called SHBG (sex hormone binding globulin), reducing the amount of SHBG protein in the blood. SHBG protein plays a key role in controlling the amount of testosterone and estrogen that’s available throughout the body. If there’s less SHBG protein, then more testosterone and estrogen will be released throughout the body, which is associated with an increased risk of acne, infertility, polycystic ovaries, and uterine cancer in overweight women. Abnormal amounts of SHBG also disturb the delicate balance between estrogen and testosterone, which is associated with the development of cardiovascular disease, especially in women.”

So, what can you do? How do you beat the cravings? The first step is to remove table sugar and processed foods out of your house. If it’s not there, you can’t be tempted. The second step is educating yourself on the hidden ingredients that are actually sugar. (Here’s a scary tip – did you know that juice is depleted of all nutrients, flavor and color, stored for a year, and then artificially flavored and colored?!)   Thirdly, check out my post, Sweet Alternatives, for some healthy alternatives that will help you and your family beat that sweet tooth for good.


Photos Jdurham, jasoncangialosi Creative Common 2.0

Lisbeth Prifogle is a freelance writer, Marine officer, and globetrotter currently in San Diego, CA. She earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University, Los Angeles and a BA from DePauw University. Lisbeth spent six months in Iraq and is working on a memoir about her experiences. She keeps a blog titled The Next Bold Move and her work can be found in the 11th issue of Poem Memoir Story, The Splinter Generation, and In the Know Travel. Lisbeth has had problems balancing hormones since she was a teenager and is constantly researching and exploring natural remedies including diet, exercise, and alternative medicines.


  1. Sugar is so addictive and so disruptive to our systems. A book that explores our history and how sugar actually caused the fall of entire societies and plagues is called Sugar Blues by William Duffy. It’s absolutely astonishing. I have a sweet tooth that I have to fight. I don’t smoke or drink (more than a few beers a week anyways), but this is the one addiction I have to constantly remind myself to keep in check.

    Elena, I read that too – more specifically it’s only 1 can of soda/day = 15 lbs of fat in a year. How many people do you know drink multiple sodas/day and most people drink it in larger quantities than 12 oz cans nowadays too. Sugar is the cause of so many problems from obesity, diabetes, mental development/processes and inflammation!!! We have to just keep informing as many people as we can.

    Amy – I’m going to start paying attention to when my joints get achy and see if it coincides with a sugar binge – that’s fantastic that your partner was able to eliminate arthritis with diet change. Definitely going to check out that book, thanks!

  2. I remember reading that you could lose 15 pounds in a year just from eliminating soda from your diet! Even though I don’t drink soda, it’s easy to forget (or choose to forget) that there is processed sugar in a lot of the food we eat. I have been very mindful of my consumption habits all week, since I read this article. Thank you!

  3. An excellent article. The statistic about a 10-fold consumption of sugar since the early 1800s is an eye-opener. Clearly, our “inherent” obsession with those “-oses” has transcended into a health crisis. Like most health issues, our own compliance is key to resolving obesity, type 2 diabetes, etc.

  4. There are so many hidden side effects! One other is inflamation. My partner was having severe arthritic symptoms and read in a book called “Transcend” that there was a correlation between glucose index and inflamed joints. He switched from sugar in his morning coffee to agave syrup and switched out his usual after noon cola for green tea. His arthritic symptoms have decreased markedly!

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