Hello I wanted/needed to tell you this story, for your message about sugar has touched my life in a way that is very different to those that I believe would be your normal readers.
I am the mother of a 25 year old young man with a heart of gold yet a very troubled life.
When my son was only 3 years old I sought help for his compulsive, hyperactive behaviour. That help came in the shape of a tablet that we all know as Ritalin. At the age of 6, my little boy was medicated with a drug. Yes a drug! I tried food restricting diets and had some relief with his behaviour when wheat, dairy and certain fruits were eliminated from his diet but this was always inconsistent and difficult to follow.
By the age of 14, my son became out of control and started ‘self medicating’ with drugs. By the age of 20, the drugs had become his life source. They were the priority. By the age of 23, my son was a drug addicted dealer with a criminal record and by the age of 24 he was getting free board and food from the government inside a jail.
At the height of my son’s drug addiction, I had learnt to react to the cycle of him being up and coming down from drugs. My son, when full of drugs, almost appeared to be normal. When coming down there was only one thing he would crave. SUGAR!!
I had become so attuned to this cycle that when I new he was coming down (angry and aggressive) I would automatically head to the supermarket to buy as much sugar coated, sugar loaded, sugar processed food that I could afford. Cereal, lollies, ice cream, flavoured milks, chocolate; anything that I new would meet his extreme sugar craving. When coming down, my son’s meal of choice was normally ice cream with fruit loops and spoonfuls of sugar on top. Why did I do this? Because it was the only way to calm the beast within him.
Just a month ago, I began my journey into understanding sugar and eliminating it from my diet. I’ve read many books and in each of those books I have had an ‘aha’ moment. Sugar is processed in the brain in the same way as drugs. What? Really? Oh the moment I read that! I cannot tell you how many bells went off in my head. My son was using sugar to replace his drugs when he was coming down to calm the needs of the sensors in his brain. How much sense did that make to me. I didn’t need to read anything else to convince me of the bad side of sugar. I had seen this in action, in my own home. I need no other motivation to continue to eliminate sugar from my diet. To me it is a drug. A drug we are all addicted to that not only affects our bodies but also our brain. A drug that is used as a substitute by drug addicts. Literally.
When the time is right, I will introduce this information to my son. I know he will see the connection like a bolt of lightning just like I did. Now, I am not saying that the sugar made him an addict or anything even like that because there are a myriad of reasons that people choose drugs and eventually become addicts, but I am saying:
1. When he was young I did see the connection between food and his behaviour but I didn’t know about fructose.
2. When he was older and a high level addict, sugar was his substitute drug. Drug addiction is a complicated physical, mental and emotional issue but what if eliminating sugar could help even just a little? It’s a positive thought to a negative situation.
Thank you for all you do. Thank you for the recipes and ideas you share. You are helping me prepare for my son’s release and you have given me a glimpse of hope that sugar is part of the problems my son has been dealing with since he was born. The behaviour issues, the mood swings, the anger and aggression. Now, in a time when so many children are diagnosed with ADHD, ODD and CD and many other behavioural and mental illnesses. A time when sugar consumption is at its highest. Could that be the simple connection? I, personally think yes but I am not a scientist or a medical practitioner. I am only a mum that has lived through all the above and never been given an answer from the medical world. I am a mum that wishes she could go back 27 years and do something as simple as remove sugar from my son’s diet. It may or may not have worked but it most definitely would have been worth trying and cheaper than all the doctors, paediatricians, psychologists and psychiatrists. And if it did work. Maybe just maybe I wouldn’t be visiting my son in a prison. I think it would have been worth trying.
Here is to the future of the ‘sugar message’ and to all those children and parents dealing with behaviour problems. I can only hope that they listen. I cannot change the past but I can change the future and eliminating sugar will be a part of that future. For me and hopefully for my son.
From a Mum,
For those that may not be aware, there is now a huge amount of scientific investigation into the link between food and mental function. Just one month ago a study appeared in the Lancet stating that “nutrition is as important to psychiatry as it is to cardiology, endocrinology and gastroenterology.”
Here is another fascinating study from Harvard showing a link between soft drink consumption and violent behaviours.
In 2002 a study by Bernard Gesch provided solid evidence that poor nutrition plays a significant role in triggering aggressive behaviour .
Most famously in 1983, Stephen Schoenthaler’s conducted a year-long study of 3,000 imprisoned teenagers, whose snack foods were replaced with healthier options containing reduced processed and sugary foods. During the year violent incidents decreased by almost half, there was a 21% reduction in anti-social behaviour, a staggering 100% reduction in suicides, 25% reduction in assaults, and a 75% reduction in use of restraints. There is a great explanation of the foods he exchanged here.
My favourite though, was in 1983 when sugar plus other preservatives and additives were lowered in the student’s diets of 803 New York Public Schools. It resulted in “a 15.7% increase in mean academic percentile ranking above the rest of the nation’s schools who used the same standardised tests. Prior to the 15.7% gain, the standard deviation of the annual change in nation percentile rating had been less than 1%.” Read about it here.
This will become a larger and larger story as more studies emerge and will hopefully bring understanding to people like Janine. Hopefully they will also allow other parents to prevent these painful situations from developing.
A huge thanks to Janine for her vulnerability in sharing her story. We wish her all the luck with her son.