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The Gateway to Everything Nice

Some things, according to old nursery rhymes, just go together — like “sugar and spice and everything nice.” The only two items that go together even more naturally are sugar and numbers.

For instance, sugar has (depending on whom you ask) 56, 61, 74, or maybe even 98 different names. Technically there are subtle differences, but mainly, it’s a case of manufacturers needing to stay one step ahead of labeling laws enacted with the hope of protecting the public from the contents of the packages

Those are not the only impressive numbers. Nancy Appleton, Ph.D., once compiled a list of the multitudinous ways in which sugar negatively affects a person’s health — all 146 of them.

The same author also wrote the book, Suicide by Sugar: A Startling Look at Our #1 National Addiction. Yes, the debate over that terminology still rages on, and we will return to it.

Sugar is the iconic, archetypal, ultimate gateway drug, so ingrained in our way of life that mothers even give it to their newborn babies, whether fed by breast or bottle. As comedian George Carlin noted in the national discussion about addiction, “Mothers’ milk leads to everything.

How much sugar are we talking about? At first glance, the answer seems to be all over the map. Conservative estimates say 50 or 60 pounds per year, consumed by each American.

The average estimate is about 100 pounds per year. Visualize 22 standard bricks — that’s about 100 pounds. Or three cinder blocks. Or four human toddlers, or one foal. Visualize a newborn baby horse, then imagine consuming that much sugar. Not just once in a lifetime, but annually. Every year.

And it gets worse. The sugar consumption figure per American, per year, has been placed at 150 pounds, or even 180 pounds. But fear not — these higher estimates have been debunked, or rather, perceived as the result of a misunderstanding:

The 150 lbs. figure refers to total sugar — all the sugars we consume throughout our diet. But the naturally occurring sugars in fruits and milk aren’t a concern for health; only added sugar is a concern. So, we calculated the amount of added sugar in the American diet — and 66 pounds is a lot.

A substance may be addictive — like morphine — yet not everyone who uses it gets addicted. Many surgical patients, when recovery is complete, go off the pain meds and do not subsequently seek them out. And yet, what happens with sugar, which allegedly is not addictive? Many people attain a state that so closely resembles addiction that even experts can’t tell the difference.

In an article called “Food Supplements and Childhood Obesity,” Dr. Robert Pretlow discussed infant formula, and noted the strong possibility that such supplements could predispose children to food addiction. He mentioned one of the concerns of addiction medicine:

Supposedly, a gateway drug opens a door to the use of “harder” drugs. The controversy over gateway drugs will not be settled any time soon, but if childhood obesity is a concern, we might stop to wonder: If there is such a thing as a gateway drug to food addiction, what might that substance be?

Written by Pat Hartman. First published January 5, 2024.


“How Sugar Affects Your Health – 146 Ways,”, undated.

“How Much Is Too Much?,”, undated.

“Food Supplements and Childhood Obesity,”  Fooducate, August 4, 2016.

Image Copyright: Justin Vidamo.



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