Sugar: The Same as Alcohol and Tobacco?

By: Bonnie Rochman


Sugar poses enough health risks that it should be considered a controlled substance just like alcohol and tobacco, contend a team of researchers from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

In an opinion piece called “The Toxic Truth About Sugar” that was published Feb. 1 in the journal Nature, Robert Lustig, Laura Schmidt and Claire Brindis argue that it’s a misnomer to consider sugar just “empty calories.” They write:

“There is nothing empty about these calories. A growing body of scientific evidence is showing that fructose can trigger processes that lead to liver toxicity and a host of other chronic diseases. A little is not a problem, but a lot kills — slowly.”

Almost everyone’s heard of — or personally experienced — the proverbial sugar high, so perhaps the comparison between sugar and alcohol or tobacco shouldn’t come as a surprise. But it’s doubtful that Americans will look favorably upon regulating their favorite vice.

We’re a nation that’s sweet on sugar: the average U.S. adult downs 22 teaspoons of sugar a day, according to the American Heart Association, and surveys have found that teens swallow 34 teaspoons.

To counter our consumption, the authors advocate taxing sugary foods and controlling sales to kids under 17. Already, 17% of U.S. children and teens are obese, and across the world the sugar intake has tripled in the past 50 years. The increase has helped create a global obesity pandemic that contributes to 35 million annual deaths worldwide from noninfectious diseases including diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

“There are good calories and bad calories, just as there are good fats and bad fats, good amino acids and bad amino acids, good carbohydrates and bad carbohydrates,” Lustig, a professor of pediatrics and director of the Weight Assessment for Teen and Child Health (WATCH) program at UCSF, said in a statement. “But sugar is toxic beyond its calories.”

The food industry tries to imply that “a calorie is a calorie,” says Kelly Brownell, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University. “But this and other research suggests there is something different about sugar,” says Brownell.

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The UCSF report emphasizes the metabolic effects of sugar. Excess sugar can alter metabolism, raise blood pressure, skew the signaling of hormones and damage the liver — outcomes that sound suspiciously similar to what can happen after a person drinks too much alcohol. Schmidt, co-chair of UCSF’s Community Engagement and Health Policy program, noted on CNN: “When you think about it, this actually makes a lot of sense. Alcohol, after all, is simply the distillation of sugar. Where does vodka come from? Sugar.”

But there are also other areas of impact that researchers have investigated: the effect of sugar on the brain and how liquid calories are interpreted differently by the body than solids. Research has suggested that sugar activates the same reward pathways in the brain as traditional drugs of abuse like morphine or heroin.

No one is claiming the effect of sugar is quite that potent, but, says Brownell, “it helps confirm what people tell you anecdotally, that they crave sugar and have withdrawal symptoms when they stop eating it.”

There’s also something particularly insidious about sugary beverages. “When calories come in liquids, the body doesn’t feel as full,” says Brownell. “People are getting more of their calories than ever before from sugared beverages.”

Other countries, including France, Greece and Denmark, levy soda taxes, and the concept is being considered in at least 20 U.S. cities and states. Last summer, Philadelphia came close to passing a 2-cents-per-ounce soda tax. The Rudd Center has been a vocal proponent of a more modest 1-cent-per-ounce tax. But at least one study, from 2010, has raised doubts that soda taxes would result in significant weight loss: apparently people who are determined to eat — and drink — unhealthily will find ways to do it.

Ultimately, regulating sugar will prove particularly tricky because it transcends health concerns; sugar, for so many people, is love. A plate of cut-up celery just doesn’t pack the same emotional punch as a tin of homemade chocolate chip cookies, which is why I took my daughter for a cake pop and not an apple as an after-school treat today.


We don’t do that regularly — it’s the first time this school year, actually — and that’s what made it special. As a society, could we ever reach the point where we’d think apples — not cake on a stick — are something to get excited over? Says Brindis, one of the report’s authors and director of UCSF’s Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies: “We recognize that there are cultural and celebratory aspects of sugar. Changing these patterns is very complicated.”

For inroads to be made, say the authors in their statement, people have to be better educated about the hazards of sugar and agree that something’s got to change:

Many of the interventions that have reduced alcohol and tobacco consumption can be models for addressing the sugar problem, such as levying special sales taxes, controlling access, and tightening licensing requirements on vending machines and snack bars that sell high sugar products in schools and workplaces.

“We’re not talking prohibition,” Schmidt said. “We’re not advocating a major imposition of the government into people’s lives. We’re talking about gentle ways to make sugar consumption slightly less convenient, thereby moving people away from the concentrated dose. What we want is to actually increase people’s choices by making foods that aren’t loaded with sugar comparatively easier and cheaper to get.”


Tropical Lychees in the Snow


The dalmation and its owner trek through the snow to buy some lychees

This tropical fruit came from South Africa

Although these lychees are summer fruits, I’m enjoying them in snowy London today. This sweet juicy fruit give me loads of energy!

Lychees are also loaded with vitamin C – making them perfect this time of the year. I can’t tell you how many flu laden people I’ve seen walking the streets of London.


  • Improves blood flow in your organs
  • Cancer Killer – lychees prevent the growth of cancer cells. Thanks to its flavonoids! So wave goodbye to breast cancer!
  • UV Protector – protects your skin from deadly UV rays
  • Vitamin C Powerhouse – just 100 grams supplies 71.5 mg of your daily recommended value
  • Great source of B-Complex vitamins (thiamin, niacin and folates). These vitamins help your body metabolize carbs, protein and fats.
  • Potassium and Copper – both essential for a healthy body. Potassium controls your blood pressure and heart rate. Copper helps produce red blood cells.
  • Combats Aging – its polyphenols act as antioxidants, so eat these babies and you’ll combat the effects of aging, diabetes, and heart disease. Lychees are 2nd to strawberries when it comes to having the most polyphenols.

Kick your Allergies Goodbye with this Ancient Trick


Tired of blowing your nose all the time? Say bye to your irritated red and dry nose.

This guy's had enough! He's just told his wife to buy him a Neti pot.

By: Shannon Murphy

Fed up with allergies? Tired of getting sick? Let me introduce you to a technique that’s guaranteed to free you from regularly blowing your nose and reaching for the medicine cabinet. Let me give you a hint… It involves squirting water up your nose.

Now why would I ask you to purposely squirt water up your nose? Well, you better take a seat and read thoroughly – because what I’m about to tell you will blow you away (no pun intended).

Traditional Neti pots

I know it sounds a bit strange, but it’s actually an ancient Hindu practice that is part of a yoga technique called Neti (Neti translates into nasal cleansing.) They use metal, ceramic and glass pots to clean their noses.
Nasal cleansing is very common in other countries because of its great benefits. The western world is embracing this practice –  and that’s thanks to celebrity endorsements by Oprah and Dr. Oz. Now, more and more family physicians recommend nasal cleansing to their patients who suffer from nasal conditions.
So, how did I get talked into doing it myself, you ask?

It all began when my son turned four years old. The doctor diagnosed him with allergy-induced asthma at age two. He had then gradually maxed out of the allowable dose of Zyrtec (Cetirizine HCl 5mg); an antihistamine used for the relief of runny nose, sneezing, itchy, watery eyes, itchy throat or nose.
He couldn’t take any more Zyrtec, and his pulmonologist recommended nasal irrigation. So, now I was faced with trying to get my 4-year old to let me squirt water up his nose. I have enough trouble trying to get him to love broccoli.
Well, after 3 weeks of trying, we were successful and have been religiously irrigating his nose almost daily. It has become part of the bedtime routine…brush teeth, floss, irrigate nose.
After a month, I noticed he wasn’t having allergy symptoms anymore.  After six months, I realized he had not had a cold.  He’s in preschool and is exposed to viruses often, so it was common to have him come home sick at least once every couple of months.
He was doing so well that I also began irrigating my nose (also an allergy sufferer and had given up on my nasal steroids, which no longer seemed to be working.) My allergy symptoms also improved. I was finally able to relieve my nasal congestion due to allergies without the use of medication! I am now a believer and when given the opportunity, I tell people about the benefits of nasal irrigation. I’m known to only give NeilMed Sinus Rinses during Christmas time. Just kidding! 🙂
There are many different pots available for you to use.  It really depends on which one feels most comfortable to you. You can find the squeeze bottles at many drugstores, Walmart, Target, and even in the drug sections of your larger grocery stores. Neti pots can be found at most drugstores.
I bought my Neti pot at Bed, Bath, and Beyond of all places (very random!) Our son’s pulmonologist recommended the Neil Med Sinus Rinse positive pressure squeeze bottle, and that is working fine for us. We’ve been using the squeeze bottle instead of the Neti pot. Personally, I tried the Neti pot, and I didn’t like the pressure I felt in my eyes because you need to tilt your head to the side (felt like my eyes were bulging out!) However, both provide the same benefits and results.

According to Dr. Mehta, founder, inventor, patent-holder and President of NeilMed® Pharmaceuticals, Inc.,“the nose is the only filter to approximately 14,000 liters of air that we breathe every day. In order to keep this air-filter clean, it is necessary to have a routine of daily nasal hygiene.”
He continues to say that “while some amount of mucus production from the nasal and sinus lining is normal, allergies and sinus infections can cause excessive mucus production. This excessive mucus production causes nasal and sinus symptoms such as a runny and stuffy nose or post-nasal drip.
The key to symptom relief is to physically wash away this excess mucus and allergens, such as grass and tree pollen, dust particles, pollutants and bacteria from the nasal passages. This rinsing will reduce inflammation of the mucosa membrane, allowing you to breathe more normally.”
If you’re daring enough to cleanse your child’s nose, NeilMed sells a pediatric size squeeze bottle that contains a smaller opening at the top. This opening makes it easier and gentler to squirt water up your child’s small nostrils.
Dr. Mehta argues that “the biggest limitation of all Neti Pots is that gravity alone cannot create sufficient pressure to wash away all the undesirable mucus and nasal irritants. While it may seem to provide some immediate symptomatic relief, long term relief is unlikely because most of the mucus and associated pathogens remain in place.”
The leading benefits of using a nasal cleansing pot include:
  • Clears the nostrils to free breathing (which helps in reducing diseases such as asthma and bronchitis!)
  • Removes excess mucous
  • Reduces pollen or allergens in nasal passages
  • Relieves nasal dryness

Other sources such as Advaita Yoga Ashrama (yoga practice website) list additional benefits:

  • reduces the frequency and duration of colds
  • reduces the symptoms of chronic sinusitis
  • flushes the tear ducts and increases eye sight
  • improves your sense of smell and taste, is therefore very good if you want to stop smoking
  • can be beneficial for some types of ear disorders
  • has a harmonizing and calming effect on the mind


Brown University Health Services reports that a couple of minutes a day of nasal irrigation can be more effective than weeks of treatment with antibiotics, decongestants and cortisone nasal sprays.

They recommend that when you are having nasal congestions symptoms, “you may irrigate once in the morning and once at night; after a while you will find out what works best for you. There is no harm in doing it 3-4 times a day if you have copious amounts of drainage. You may continue indefinitely. Some people with allergies find great relief from this.”

See, it's not hard at all.


Although I have no problems using the squeeze bottle, I had a problem using the Neti pot. I didn’t enjoy it like the guy in the photo above.  Everyone’s different, so try out both and stick with the one that feels most comfortable.  It takes several tries to get the technique down, so don’t give up if you end up swallowing a bunch of water the first time! You can find demonstrations on how to use the Neti pot on YouTube.
Most irrigation kits come with salt packets, but when you run out of them, you can save a lot of money by mixing up your own. Non-iodized Kosher or Sea Salt and good old baking soda are recommended for sinus irrigation.
It’s important not to tilt your head too far forward or too far back when pouring the solution into the nasal cavity.  Doing so can cause the solution to pour down into your throat or mouth and you may not like it (although it’s safe to digest). Once you have become familiar with how to use the Neti pot, it’s important to use it regularly without overusing it.
Nasal Cleansing Overuse
A 2009 study performed at Georgetown University and presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology’s annual meeting suggests that Neti pot overuse could increase the risk of sinus infections. It found that patients who used nasal irrigation for a year and then stopped using it for a year had a 62% lower incidence of sinusitis during the year in which they stopped.
Talal Nsouli, MD, who headed the study, explained that “the nasal mucus we have in the nose contains very important immune elements that are the first line of respiratory defense against infections.”
Nsouli doesn’t advise stopping nasal irrigation altogether. He only suggests using it in moderation. He advises using nasal irrigation for no more than one to three weeks while you are having symptoms.
“If your symptoms don’t improve during that time, see your doctor, who can diagnose the underlying problem and get you the appropriate treatment.”
Like any treatment program, using it too much can cause complications, in this case it can overly dry the nasal cavity; create a lasting stinging sensation, or mild nasal irritation. If these symptoms occur with daily Neti pot usage, try limiting use to every other day or once every two to three days.
I hate it when my nose gives me trouble, so I personally use it daily – especially if I’ve been around someone who is sick (I’ve avoided many colds this way!) On days when I feel all right, I use it every two or three days. I haven’t had any problems with regular nasal irrigation and neither has my son.
Keep in mind that the specifics of the study were not included in this WebMD article, such as how many times a day did the participants cleanse their noses, how much water was used during each cleansing, and the saline mixture strength, etc.


It’s extremely important to keep your Neti pot or squeeze bottle clean! Unless of course you like mildew, bacteria and mold.  Then in that case, don’t clean it regularly. Those nasty guests won’t even bother visiting IF you clean your pot or bottle with warm to hot water daily.
Once a week, you can wash it with mild soap, including the tip of the pot or removable tip from the squeeze bottle. Dry the outside with a clean towel and allow the pot and lid to air dry separately.

Some noses may be more sensitive to the saline strength of pre-made saline packets and may cause redness, over-drying of the nasal cavity, or a lasting stinging sensation. If using a whole pre-made salt package makes the salt solution in the pot or bottle too salty for your nose, try mixing only 3/4 of a package or half a package into the pot using warm water.
You can also make your own salt solution and adjust the salinity as needed. The Mayo Clinic recommends dissolving 1/8 tsp. of table salt into 8 oz. of distilled or purified water.
Yeah, tap water is okay, BUT only if you boil it first. Many sources recommend using distilled water or boiled tap water for use in your Neti pot or squeeze bottle.
In the United States, lukewarm tap water appears safe for saline preparation; sterile water or premixed solution is recommended if you are unsure if the tap water is potable. The amount of bacteria in tap water depends on where you live.
Certain organisms may exist in water that can enter your body through your nasal passages.  Boiling water for at least 10-15 minutes and letting it cool prior to adding your salt is sufficient for preventing a more serious illness.
A simple internet search on “nasal cleansing” will provide you with a lot more information. I recommend visiting where they give a nice list of frequently asked questions to put your mind at ease! I challenge you to try it for a month and truly believe you will feel a difference.
Why waste your precious money any longer on expensive prescriptions, cortisone nasal sprays and decongestants? Your “nose” knows you like saving money, so what are you waiting for? Start blowing water up your nose! 🙂
Now I must excuse myself…I was at the store today and a child sneezed in my direction. Better go cleanse my nose, just in case! Happy Squirting! 🙂