It’s Easy Once We Get Why & How to Kick It


he research is unequivocal: sugar is one of the most addictive substances known to man.1,2,3,4,5,6 But that’s just one of sugar’s issues:

Here’s a few more:

  • There is evidence that sucrose consumption activates the mesocorticolimbic system in a manner identical to substances of abuse.7
  • A strong and consistent relationship was found between high sugar consumption, in the form of sweets and chocolates and non-diet soft drinks, and involvement in peer violence and substance use among adolescents across 26 industrialized countries.8 Still another study documents associations between soft drink consumption and aggressive behavior among a quarter million adolescents across sixty-four different countries.9
  • Daily consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages increases the incidence of anxiety in schoolkids,10 adults11 and seniors.12
  • High-glycemic (high-sugar) diets significantly increase depressive symptoms.13,14,15
  • Higher blood glucose levels and diets high in fructose increase the risk of dementia.16,17,18
  • Adolescents (in Boston public high schools) who consumed more than five cans of soft drinks/week were 9-15% more likely to have engaged in aggressive actions and significantly more likely to have carried a weapon.19
  • People addicted to gambling also tend to be addicted to sugar and have higher levels of anxiety.20

Studies have documented an association between the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and ADHD,21,22 and a plausible causative mechanism has been suggested: an overdriving of the same dopamine pathways involved in so many other forms of addiction, causing the same reactive desensitization of those pathways that we see in alcoholism, cocaine, methamphetamine or opioid addiction.23,24 In six southeast asian countries high soft-drink consumption among students correlates not only to a higher risk of being in physical confrontations but also alcoholism, suicide attempts and amphetamine use.25

And finally, a study comparing fruit juice consumption to sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) across eleven US states and the District of Columbia found a 26% greater prevalence of poor mental health among the SSB drinkers than the fruit juice imbibers.26

What’s not to like?

Seriously, this new research speaks directly to my personal experience. Full disclosure: I’m a recovering sugarholic myself.

Is Sugar Toxic?

This thirteen-minute 2012 60 Minutes segment is a great place to start as it hits several important angles quickly. It introduces Robert Lustig, MD, at the time a University of California San Francisco-based researcher forcused on childhood obesity.

We hear about the toxicity of sugar, its addictive and cardiovascular health-undermining nature, its relationship to cancer and sugar industry reluctance to admit any of this.

This is a good first watch for anyone wanting a great overview of the issues.

Learn More About Sugar

Knowledge is power. Understanding the impact refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup have on our metabolisms is frequently a critical first step in taking on the work of kicking sugar.

This video explains why we’re so metabolically driven to sugar.

Translation: Why Sugar Tastes So Good.

You’ll learn:

  • One dynamic driving sugar addiction: the dopamine > serotonin > stress hormone cycle
  • A brief history of refining carbohydrates

Scott Rudin was an A-list Hollywood and Broadway producer for many decades.

Famous for a temperament politely described as “unpredictable” and more accurately as abusive, Scott finally had his comeuppance in early 2021. By then the cultural tide had changed and largely as a result of a new, more networked generation sharing their experiences, Scott’s behavior was exposed to a degree that caused him to pull back from his professional activities.

As you’ll see, one of his “quirks” was a huge sweet tooth. Probably just a coincidence …

This excerpt from 60 Minutes’ The Flavorists is strong medicine for anyone in denial about corporate goals when it comes to designer foods.

It’s a two-minute grab of the pivotal moment in the full 13-minute video to the right or just below.

The full Flavorists episode from 60 Minutes.

A 13 minute tour through what happens when corporate interests take on the challenges of selling food.

This episode is not about sugar per se but it is illuminating with respect to the kind of thinking that’s dominated the American food industry for several generations.

Let’s call this segment It’s The Sugar, Not the Fat.

It’s the foundation of Lustig’s concerns: the bad science at the beginning of the low-fat movement.

Lustig skewers that science mercilessly, and then shows us what that means for the health of us as individuals and as a society.

The Bitter Truth is Robert Lustig MD’s entrance into online celebrity.

Lustig deconstructs the dodgy statistics behind the science behind the low fat prevents heart disease, suggesting why that approach appears to have accomplished the opposite of what it intended.

The reason: quantities of fructose far in excess of anything our ancestors would have encountered before industrialization. With one exception, as we’ll see:

The wealthy and powerful.

Chapter 2 of Sugar Blues tells the story of the march of sugar across the face of western civlization.

This is the part where western europeans get into slavery big time to make the sugar trade profitable for themselves. Typical hopped-up on sugar behavior if you ask me.

This is a short snippet intro to the longer piece to the right or below.

This is the Full Sugar Blues Chap. 2 Reading. Sugar appears to have contributed to the rise and fall of culture after culture across the western world. This video tells that story.

When considering some of the published research supporting associations between sugar consumption and violent behavior, and especially after we hear Lustig explain the toxic nature of high quantities of fructose … it’s easy to make intuitive connections between individual and societal behavior.

Association does not prove causation. But it’s an interesting data point any way we slice it.

In this excerpt tells from The Hacking of the American Mind, Lustig breaks down how interactions between dopamine and serotonin modulate pleasure vs happiness.

His model suggests that pleasure is sensory and transitory, while happiness is more mental/emotional and sustainable. And that this can be explained neuroendocrinologically.

Please sit down. 🙂

This is Lustig’s complete 2018 talk, The Hacking of the American Mind. By now Lustig’s given up on weaning the industrialized world off sugar, and looking at workarounds for harm reduction.

Lustig attempts to solve all our modern society’s most pressing public health dilemmas along with a few of our most stubborn political challenges while revealing just how corporate influences on our food supply have impacted our physical and mental health.

Peer-Reviewed Research

Here’s just some of the open-source evidence base supporting concepts key to this course.

You’ll find more links to original sources and pubmed cites in the footnotes section at the bottom of the page.

Pengpid 2019

36K students in six Southeast Asian countries showed the more soft drinks, the more likely to have been in a fight and having sustained an injury.

Freije 2021

Drinking at least one sugar-sweeted beverage/day is associated with a 26% greater prevalence of poor mental health.

Kose 2021

High anxiety individuals under 45 had significantly higher mean consumption of added simple sugars.

Shi 2020

The more soft drinks consumed the greater the likelihood of frequent physical fighting in 260K adolescents aged 12-18.

Schoenthaler 1994

Schoenthaler deconstructs the errors he finds in a prominent study of the time that purported to debunk the idea that sugar impacts childrens’ behavior.

Gangwisch 2015

A study supporting the idea that diets rich in refined carbs contribute to depression.

Gabrieli 2002

Fructose amplifies the cortisol and cholinergic response to a hypoglycemic episode, increasing anxiety and stress.

Girardi 1995

Sugar reduces the neurotransmitters brains need to pay attention in children with Attention Deficit Disorder.


One big difference between medicine and healing is that while medicine demands compliance, healing involves change and growth.

That takes focused effort on the part of everyone involved.


One big difference between medicine and healing is that while medicine demands compliance, healing involves change and growth.

That takes focused effort on the part of everyone involved.

 1. Wiss DA, Avena N, Rada P. “Sugar Addiction: From Evolution to Revolution.Front Psychiatry. 2018 Nov 7;9:545.

 2. Ribeiro A, Igual-Perez MJ, Santos Silva E, Sokal EM. “Childhood Fructoholism and Fructoholic Liver Disease.Hepatol Commun. 2018 Nov 30;3(1):44-51.

 3. Olszewski PK, Wood EL, Klockars A, Levine AS. “Excessive Consumption of Sugar: an Insatiable Drive for Reward.” Curr Nutr Rep. 2019 Jun;8(2):120-128.

 4. Freeman CR, Zehra A, et al. “Impact of sugar on the body, brain, and behavior.Front Biosci (Landmark Ed). 2018 Jun 1;23:2255-2266.

 5. Wei S, Hertle S, Spanagel R, Bilbao A. “NMDA Receptors in Accumbal D1 Neurons Influence Chronic Sugar Consumption and Relapse. eNeuro. 2021 May 17;8(3)

 6. Avena NM, Long KA, Hoebel BG. “Sugar-dependent rats show enhanced responding for sugar after abstinence: evidence of a sugar deprivation effect. Physiol Behav. 2005 Mar 16;84(3):359-62.

 7. Jacques A, Chaaya N, Beecher K, Ali SA, Belmer A, Bartlett S. “The impact of sugar consumption on stress driven, emotional and addictive behaviors. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2019 Aug;103:178-199.

 8. Bruckau Z, Walsh SD. “Adolescents’ multiple and individual risk behaviors: Examining the link with excessive sugar consumption across 26 industrialized countries. Soc Sci Med. 2018 Nov;216:133-141.

 9. Shi Z, Malki A, Abdel-Salam G, Liu J, Zayed H. “Association between Soft Drink Consumption and Aggressive Behaviour among a Quarter Million Adolescents from 64 Countries Based on the Global School-Based Student Health Survey (GSHS). Nutrients. 2020 Mar 5;12(3):694.

10. Zahedi H, Kelishadi R, et al. “Association between junk food consumption and mental health in a national sample of Iranian children and adolescents: the CASPIAN-IV study.Nutrition. 2014 Nov-Dec;30(11-12):1391-7.

11. Kose J, Cheung A, Fezeu LK, et al. “A Comparison of Sugar Intake between Individuals with High and Low Trait Anxiety: Results from the NutriNet-Santé Study.Nutrients. 2021 Apr 30;13(5):1526.

12. Masana MF, Tyrovolas S, Kolia N, et al. “Dietary Patterns and Their Association with Anxiety Symptoms among Older Adults: The ATTICA Study.Nutrients. 2019 May 31;11(6):1250.

13. Breymeyer KL, Lampe JW, McGregor BA, Neuhouser ML. “Subjective mood and energy levels of healthy weight and overweight/obese healthy adults on high-and low-glycemic load experimental diets.” Appetite. 2016 Dec 1;107:253-259.

14. Knüppel A, Shipley MJ, Llewellyn CH, Brunner EJ. “Sugar intake from sweet food and beverages, common mental disorder and depression: prospective findings from the Whitehall II study.Sci Rep. 2017 Jul 27;7(1):6287.

15. Hu D, Cheng L, Jiang W. “Sugar-sweetened beverages consumption and the risk of depression: A meta-analysis of observational studies.J Affect Disord. 2019 Feb 15;245:348-355.

16. Crane PK, Walker R. “Glucose levels and risk of dementia.N Engl J Med. 2013 Aug 8;369(6):540-8.

17. Seneff S, Wainwright G, Mascitelli L. “Nutrition and Alzheimer’s disease: the detrimental role of a high carbohydrate diet.Eur J Intern Med. 2011 Apr;22(2):134-40.

18. Lakhan SE, Kirchgessner A. “The emerging role of dietary fructose in obesity and cognitive decline.Nutr J. 2013 Aug 8;12:114,

19. Solnick SJ, Hemenway D. “The ‘Twinkie Defense’: the relationship between carbonated non-diet soft drinks and violence perpetration among Boston high school students.Inj Prev. 2012 Aug;18(4):259-63.

20. Chamberlain SR, A Redden S, Grant JE. “Calorie Intake and Gambling: Is Fat and Sugar Consumption ‘Impulsive’?J Gambl Stud. 2017 Sep;33(3):783-793.

21. Yu CJ, Du JC, et al. “Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption Is Adversely Associated with Childhood Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2016 Jul 4;13(7).

22. Del-Ponte B, Quinte GC, Cruz S, Grellert M, Santos IS. “Dietary patterns and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): A systematic review and meta-analysis.J Affect Disord. 2019 Apr 10;252:160-173.

23. Johnson RJ, Gold MS, et al. “Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: is it time to reappraise the role of sugar consumption?Postgrad Med. 2011 Sep;123(5):39-49.

24. Blum K, Braverman ER, et al. “Reward deficiency syndrome: a biogenetic model for the diagnosis and treatment of impulsive, addictive, and compulsive behaviors.J Psychoactive Drugs. 2000 Nov;32 Suppl:i-iv, 1-112.

25. Freije SL, Senter CC, Avery AD, Hawes SE, Jones-Smith JC. “Association Between Consumption of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and 100% Fruit Juice With Poor Mental Health Among US Adults in 11 US States and the District of Columbia.Prev Chronic Dis. 2021 May 20;18:E51.