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Sugar: The 21st Century Drug of Choice

In last month’s newsletter, I mentioned going on a trek to Nepal with my mother. I am still amazed by our trip and have some really great memories. These memories bring lessons in life; and this is where I want to begin today. On day two of our trek at Annapurna in the Himalayas, we undertook an 8 hour trek across the ridge between two mountains. Two hours into our walk, we stopped for a morning break in a little village, consisting of about 4 buildings. This village was very typical of the area. There was a guest house providing accommodation for about $8 per night. A small table was set up, where the locals sell their hand-made jewellery. There was food for sale, including simple rice and dahl, but also (in contrast) a whole lot of junk food such as Snickers, Pringles, soft drinks (see the image at left).

We were sitting in this little village, snacking on our healthy foods, when a member of our group noticed a single cannabis plant growing in the nearby garden. Being someone who’s never taken a single drug in my life (not one), I found it quite amusing to spot the plant. Everyone in the group had a laugh about trekkers who find that they can’t possibly get high – given the high altitude.

Following our break and laugh at our little find, we continued on our way for the long day’s trek. Over the next few days, I noticed that as we passed through each village,  the very same things were for sale, including all the same junk food. I cannot fault these little villages for showing entrepreneurial spirit, and I acknowledge that we only sell things that we know people will buy. It occurred to me that it’s a sad state of affairs when the only things westerners will buy is junk food that’s high in sugar.

The second thing I noticed as we passed through the villages, was that we were imparting our bad dietary habits onto these local communities. As we progressed through the villages, we were continually asked for sweets by small children. Over many years of seeing westerners trekking through their country, these children learnt that westerners like sweets, and that they could obtain them from us. Our bad habits were now being transferred to the next generation of children in Nepal.

As I reflect on our society, it’s obvious that people are using sugar in the 21st century as their drug of choice. Take a look at yourself. Do you reach 3pm at work, and start to crave something sweet as you sit at your desk? After eating a full meal at night, do you find that you yearn for that next sugar hit, by craving dessert? The more I consider this, I realise that sugar is the drug of the 21st century.

Why is sugar a drug? The Oxford Dictionary defines a drug as follows: “A medicine or other substance which has a physiological effect when ingested or otherwise introduced into the body.”

This is exactly what we are doing. We are introducing a substance into our body which has a physiological effect. We are craving this physiological effect, so we feed this craving via sugary foods. The problem is that the body doesn’t actually want it. The body then releases insulin to counter this effect. Guess what? The effect dissipates, and the cravings begin again. This cycle becomes an addiction. To be honest, our whole society has become addicted to sugar. This is evidenced by the obesity problems seen in our country, and also by the increase in chronic diseases such as Diabetes. Furthermore, we are affecting other countries by imparting our bad habits onto the rest of the world.

Stop and think about yourself for a minute. Is sugar your drug of choice? Are you ready to make the change, and eliminate sugar from your diet?

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