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Sugar harms your body as much as smoking: 'Sugar is the new tobacco'

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If you've cut down on your alcohol consumption and sworn off smoking, you might regard sugary foods as a safe, healthy substitute. Now health experts are citing new studies showing that sugar harms your body just as much as alcohol and tobacco, reported the UK Telegraph on Jan. 9.

And in Britain, those experts are doing something about it by urging the food industry to cut 30 percent of sugar from processed foods. Concerned about the United Kingdom's obesity epidemic, these diet gurus estimate that the change could cut 100 calories on average daily.

"Sugar is the new tobacco," said Professor of Clinical Epidemiology at the University of Liverpool, UK, Simon Capewell.

"Everywhere, sugary drinks and junk foods are now pressed on unsuspecting parents and children by a cynical industry focused on profit not health. The obesity epidemic is already generating a huge burden of disease and death."

Working together, academics like Capewell and nutrition experts are launching "Action on Sugar." The campaign urges:

  • Companies to reduce levels of sugar in processed foods.
  • Corporations to end advertisements for sugary drinks and snacks.

Concerned about the potential for the childhood obesity epidemic to skyrocket, they refer to sugar as "the alcohol of childhood." The campaign also demands that the the government fine those who do not meet reduction targets.

Although nothing so dramatic has taken place in the United States, more research is emerging here that compares sugar to dangerously addictive substances, reported NPR on Jan. 9.

Nicole Avena, a neuroscientist at Columbia University, conducted studies showing that too much sugar results in brain changes similar to addiction. She estimates that 11 percent of the nation qualify as food addicts, in particular carbohydrates.

To make her case, Nicole has authored a book: "Why Diets Fail (Because You're Addicted to Sugar): Science Explains How to End Cravings, Lose Weight, and Get Healthy."

In it, she contends that our addiction to refined sugars and carbohydrates make it impossible to succeed at weight loss. The book also contends a plan for surviving withdrawal.

A psychologist at the University of Michigan who runs the Food and Addiction Science and Treatment lab, Ashley Gearhardt agrees about the need for some people to go cold turkey when it comes to sugar.

"The majority of people will be able to moderate sugar," says Gearhardt. "But many people repeatedly fail when they try moderation."

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