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Bob Harper champions high protein low carb diets: Sugar compared to cocaine

What can turn you into a "Biggest Loser" when it comes to your scale? Bethenny Frankel and celebrity trainer Bob Harper debated what constitutes the best diet for weight loss on her talk show July 10. Plus: When it comes to sugar, discover why many health experts say that it's as addictive as drugs.

Find out why Oreos are as addictive as drugs.
Find out why Oreos are as addictive as drugs.
Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Comparing Bob's "Skinny Rules for Weight Loss" to Bethenny's diet views, Bob made it clear that he believes in protein power and sugar-free low carb diets. A former vegetarian, he contends that eating protein at each meal plays a key role in weight loss.

For breakfast, Bob advises eating a large meal to kick-start your metabolism. But he recommends avoiding fruit juice. Eat a whole orange rather than gulp down liquid calories.

However, Bethenny feels that eating breakfast when you aren't hungry can make you overeat. She is a fan of fruit juice, and contends that no one got fat from drinking juice.

The diet debate became particularly heated when they discussed before-bed snacks. To optimize weight loss, Bob advocates going to bed feeling hungry. If you do eat something, have a small portion of protein.

Bethenny disagrees. She feels that if you're craving the traditional bedtime snack of cookies and milk, you should treat yourself to one Oreo cookie.

But for people who are addicted to sugar, eating just one Oreo cookie is impossible. Moreover, Connecticut College psychology professor Joseph Schroeder conducted a study showing that those sweet chocolate treats are comparable to drugs.

"We found that the behavior they exhibited was equally strong for Oreo cookies as it was for cocaine or morphine,” said Schroeder, the director of the Behavioral Neuroscience program at Connecticut College. "When we looked in the pleasure center of the brain, we found that the Oreo cookies activated the pleasure center more so than cocaine would activate the same center."

Even eating fruit can trigger an addictive response that leads to overeating, according to some experts. Offering her own experience: Amy Bell, a young woman who lost 283 pounds by eliminating all forms of sugar including fruit. She follows a strict high fat low carb diet that she revealed in a July 10 interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

"I used to eat all day," she admits now. "Anything and everything."

But food addiction, in some ways, is more challenging than drug addiction to overcome. You can stop taking a drug - but you have to keep eating food. Amy had to explore precisely which foods triggered her addiction, and sugar was the main culprit.

Amy chose to go public with her weight loss success because she hopes to help others. And she's proud of her new "addictions," which include eating right and exercising.

"Exercise is an addiction, and I would rather be addicted to exercise, water and healthy eating than be depressed, obese and drinking diet soda," she wrote. "Life is beautiful and too short for me to be anything less than what I was meant to be."

The issue of whether fruit juice, even 100 percent fruit juice, should be categorized as a beverage that contains sugar has become a hotly contested question. While many celebrities view juicing as an ideal tool for shedding pounds and enhancing their complexions, most experts agree with Bob Harper that juice is not a good choice for a healthy diet, reported the New York Daily News on July 11.

"Sugar can throw you off-balance and spike your blood sugar ... and permanently destroy the metabolism," warned Marissa Vicario, a board-certified health and nutrition coach in Tribeca. That warning summarizes Bob's advice: "Don't ever drink juice."

Just how much sugar is in orange juice? The juice from one orange yields seven grams of sugar and nine grams of carbohydrates. Given that the average glass of orange juice contains three to five oranges, the result could be a blood sugar spike and subsequent drop.

One of the most vocal experts in the debate about the dangers of sugar is Dr. Aseem Malhotra. A cardiologist as well as a runner, he has teamed up with the Action On Sugar group to spread the word that excess sugar is linked to conditions ranging from obesity to cancer to diabetes.

Agreeing with him is Dr. Robert Lustig, author of "Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease." In particular, he noted in a recent interview that "the sugar-diabetes and sugar-heart disease connections are much stronger. Sugar is integral for the development of chronic metabolic disease, because it overwhelms the liver and drives insulin resistance."