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Around Our Town...To Your Health

06/01/2005 - It all started with a bowl of cold cereal for breakfast.

I thought I was eating healthy cereal, too, like Cheerios, Raisin Bran, Corn Flakes, Grape Nuts, all with skim milk and without adding sugar. My blood sugar spiked, followed by my insulin spiking, which drove my blood sugar below normal and stimulated a voracious hunger. By 9:30 a.m., I was weak, sleepy and starving. I had a stash of granola bars in my desk to pick me up until I could eat lunch. If I didn't eat granola bars, then I ate candy, donuts, bagels or cookies, whatever I could find to get my blood sugar back up. After I devoured my lunch, I was still hungry, so I snacked through the afternoon on the same list of junk foods. After eating 2 helpings of supper and then dessert, I was still hungry, so I had my nightly bowl of ice cream and went to bed. I was a carbohydrate addict.

You might think that I should have weighed 300 pounds by the way I ate, but I am also an avid runner, which is probably what saved my bacon. There is a growing epidemic of obesity in America among adults and children. For over 20 years the medical community has been teaching that low fat diets and exercise are the cure for America's weight problem. However, when people eat less fat, they have to make up for the decrease in calories by increasing their intake of protein or carbohydrates. Most people choose carbohydrates, and usually not the good ones, but the highly processed ones like breakfast cereals, crackers, breads, cookies, enriched wheat flour, rice, pasta, juices, and sodas. They are becoming more overweight as a result. Our sedentary lifestyles dominated by desk jobs, TV and computer games don't help the situation either.

New research is pointing toward carbohydrate addiction as the cause of obesity. Our society is inundated with the highly processed carbohydrates listed above that spike our blood sugar and lead to an addiction that is as powerful as nicotine. The crux of the problem is insulin resistance, which is part of the process that eventually leads to Type 2 Diabetes. What starts out as a minor weight problem, over the years, can actually develop into diabetes, especially if there is a family history of diabetes.

Glycemic index is a measure of the rate of rise of a person's blood sugar after consuming various carbohydrates. Most processed foods, rice, pasta and potatoes spike our blood sugar rapidly. Our bodies respond to the rapid sugar spike by spiking our insulin in order to drive our blood sugar back down into a normal range. However, the insulin spike is often too efficient, causing our blood sugar to dip below normal, which is known as hypoglycemia. When our sugar is too low, our bodies respond by releasing cortisol (a natural steroid), adrenaline, growth hormone, and glucagon, all of which stimulate a voracious hunger that we answer by feeding our bodies more processed carbs, and so the cycle repeats itself. Thus, a carbohydrate addict is born.

If any of you can identify with my carbohydrate addiction, please stay tuned next month when I explain how to break the addiction.

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