Could it really be that Americans eat over 600 calories from sugar every day (e.g. 40 teaspoons)? Unfortunately, yes. You’ve probably noticed that processed foods are rife with those dreadful added sugars. And don’t think that products boasting that they’re “natural” or “organic” are free from added sugars. Natural and organic sugars abound in processed, packaged “natural” and “organic” foods.

Too much sugar makes us want to eat more and more. There’s a theory for why this is the case. Back when sugar was rare in our diets, it was mostly consumed in the summertime, when humans had access to fruits. Overeating in the summertime helped us pack on a little extra weight to get us through the winter, when food would be harder to find. Clearly this is no longer working for us. In modern times, we are bombarded with unhealthy, calorie-dense food choices nearly everywhere we go.

But why? Here’s the logic: food manufacturers make money when you buy their foodstuffs, and they make more money when you buy more stuff. One of their many strategies to make you buy more is to make you want to eat more. They achieve this by engineering addictive products that only make us hungrier. The magical ingredients almost always include sugar, salt, and fat.

On top of that, the sugar and high fructose corn syrup industries are tremendously powerful. Despite several determined groups working to resist such favoritism, big sugar uses its dominance to lobby for massive government subsidies, which it receives. The United States’ system of subsidies, tariffs, and quotas in place for sugar and corn have resulted in sugar prices being artificially high and corn prices being artificially low, thus our food supply’s preference for high fructose corn syrup over the more costly sugars extracted from the sugarcane plant and the sugar beet.

Which brings us to: fat pockets, two ways. As we gain weight, our hormones get out of whack, and we can’t even tell when we’re full anymore, which can lead us to eat even more, gaining weight in the process. This puts us at risk for obesity and diabetes, both of which have been on the rise in recent decades. Some researchers think that sugar, specifically, may be the guilty party behind this occurrence. Unfortunately, the researchers interested in the science behind this don’t have a lot of places to turn to for funding other than the food industry itself. This means that the research that would ideally be used to prevent or treat obesity could also be used to create more addictive products.

Meanwhile, the sugar industry’s fat pockets keep getting fatter, giving them even more money and political power. The sugar industry may be quietly exerting influence over important agricultural and trade policy, such as the Farm Bill and various free trade agreements.

If you don’t want to be a part of this scary system that keeps us hooked, consider cutting down on your sugar intake. Cutting back on sugar, believe it or not, is something that is within your control. To keep your cravings in check, focus on getting enough sleep, water, and by maintaining a healthy diet. For more tips on how to cut out the junk, click here. To fully break up with sugar, check out our guide here.

Looking ahead, it seems as though pressure to do something about sugar on a federal level is mounting. With proposals for soda taxes and warning labels popping up across the country and as dietary recommendations regarding sugar are cracking down, we’re slowly but surely headed in the right direction, where our food environment will work for us and not against us.

Image source: Umberto Salvagnin / Wikimedia Commons