Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Eating Sugar For Good Mental Health Is Crazy

This Scientific American story contains the details of a very disturbing new study that encourages people to eat MORE sugar do de-stress their lives.

Say what?! Did I read that correctly? Yep, you sure did.

A so-called scientific research study presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday claims that lab rats that were fed sugar water twice a day caused them to be less agitated and reduced stress levels when put in a stressful situation than the control group of lab rats that were not fed the sugar water.

Lead researcher Yvonne Ulrich-Lai, psychiatry fellow from the University of Cincinnati, took blood samples from the rats and found the stress hormone glucocorticoids were lower in the hypothalumus region of the brain where stress originates than the control group that was fed either saccharin water or just plain water.

"We actually found that sugar snacks, not artificially sweetened snacks, are better self-medications for the two most common types of stress--psychological and physical," Ulrich-Lai explained.

Excessive presence of glucocorticoids weakens the immune system and causes fat to store in the abdomen, the researchers added. They conclude that people who consume sugar to deal with stress are actually helping themselves deal with it in a positive manner.

"I think this research is giving us insight into something that many people may be doing already without realizing it," Ulrich-Lai says. "A lot of people when they are stressed will say that they like to eat food that tastes good."

Comfort food -- cookies, cakes, pies, candy bars, chocolate, sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar -- WHERE WILL IT STOP?! When do you draw the line between what is good and healthy for your body versus the innate desire to be mentally happy?

The story notes that increased sugar consumption causes weight gain, but that the rats were able to self-monitor their calories enough to lower their intake sufficiently to keep their weight under control. Well good for the rats, but what about humans? How many of us have the gumption or know-how to "balance out" our caloric intake when we consume more sugar? Sounds complicated if you ask me and not something that many will be able to easily implement in their life.

When I started livin' la vida low-carb on January 1, 2004, I gave up eating sugar for good. It was VERY hard at first to overcome my sugar addiction as I detail in my book, but has been the best thing I could have ever done to help me lose weight and improve my physical and mental health. Just the thought of eating sugar today is worse than repulsive in my mind. With my blood sugar under control, my emotions and mental health are excellent and I don't need sugar to de-stress me.

But I have a sure-fire way to help people lower their stress and increase their energy. It's called EXERCISE!!! Just 30 minutes at the gym or playing your favorite sport will do wonders for your body and release all the natural endorphins that make your body relax and tingle (in a good way!) all over. Leave the granular white stuff alone and try the treadmill instead.

Ulrich-Lai admits that fruits and vegetables, many of which are acceptable on a low-carb lifestyle, may have the same effect on the brain in reducing glucocorticoids as sugar.

"I think the key is eating something you enjoy eating," Ulrich-Lai concludes.

I do. They're called low-carb foods and I wouldn't trade them for all the sugar in the world! Give up sugar for good because it is rat poison for your body. You don't need it and you will survive. Again, I'm living proof of that!

It is my contention that these researchers are just acting as a shill for this new diet plan coming out in April 2006 that is already getting a lot of press. It's pure junk science in my opinion and will mislead many innocent people who desperately want a way to lose weight for good.

Why don't you try a more scientifically proven weight loss plan that will make you feel better than you've ever felt in your entire life? It's called livin' la vida low-carb, baby!

You can e-mail Yvonne Ulrich at

11-19-05 UPDATE: I wanted to pass along this note I got from lead investigator Dr. James P. Herman regarding the study on sugar and its effect on stress levels:

Dear Mr. Moore:

I am writing in response to your blog concerning the press reports on our work on sugar and stress. I am the principal investigator on the project. I want to note that, as is often the case, the press reports missed the point of our study. Our work indicates that eating sweets may be a form of 'self-medication' against stress; we feel that this is a physiologically maladaptive response to stress that is a likely contributor to our current 'obesity epidemic'. Our next step is to understand how food reward blocks stress, and evaluate alternatives to food as stress preventatives. Indeed, you are right on about exercise; there is some evidence to suggest that exercise has similar stress-reducing effects in similar animal models.

In no way do we advocate carbs, sweets, etc. as a therapy for stress.

I hope this clarifies the issue you raised.


James P. Herman, PhD

Absolutely it clarifies the issue, Dr. Herman. THANK YOU for writing and I apologize if my writing reflected poorly on your organization in any way. I have a MAJOR problem with the way the media twists solid and clear research into the story they want to tell. It's a shame to see your food work raped by them like that and I for one will not stop shining the light on it when I do. Again, THANK YOU for making your work available to the public and for working on ways to reduce stress and obesity in America.


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