By Kelly Baker
November 23, 2008
ARE you addicted to sugar? It has several health risks and it’s in more foods than you might think.
Swimming superstar Elka Graham knew she had a problem. And several months ago she realised it was time to do something about it.
Graham, a two-time Olympian and multiple record holder, had two options. She could gradually cut back on the substance she was addicted to or she could go cold turkey.
She opted for the latter and, while quitting was a struggle, today Graham is 100 per cent “clean”. What was the substance that had her in its iron grip? Sweet, sweet sugar.
“It wasn’t easy, but I kicked it,” says Graham proudly. “I struggled at first, particularly with coffee.
When I first started drinking it without sugar it tasted so strong, very bitter and unpleasant. Even the way it smelled bothered me.”
Graham’s first sugar-free days were rough. She was desperate for the sweet stuff and several times found herself involuntarily reaching for it, but in the end she held strong. And eventually she found she had turned a craving corner.
“At first it was awful, but then I started to adapt,” she says.
“I started to feel cleansed and I kept reminding myself that the short-term pain was worth the long-term gain. And I liked that I felt more consistent. I didn’t want the false high of sugar. I’d rather get my high from exercise.
“Plus, I began to see that you spoil the taste of a good coffee when you put rubbish like sugar in it.”
Okay, we know what you’re thinking… there are plenty of nastier things than sugar that you could be addicted to, but there’s no doubt that being dependent on the white stuff has its downsides. In fact, some of them are deadly serious.
For starters, research has shown that sugary drinks may increase your risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Sugary beverages have also been linked to gout in men, according to a study published by the British Medical Journal.
A further study published in the Journal Of Clinical Investigation in 2007 found that eating too much sugar shuts down the gene SHBG (sex hormone binding globulin), thus reducing the amount of SHBG protein in the blood.
This protein plays a key role in controlling the amount of testosterone and estrogen available throughout the body.