Your Body on Sugar (Recipe: Oven-Baked Blueberry Pancake)

Sugar-related illnesses are skyrocketing.  Diabetes.  Heart disease.  Dementia.  Yet Americans are shoveling in more sweet stuff than ever.  I know I’m one of them.

We know it’s bad, but we just can’t help ourselves.  Research shows that it is not just about self-control.  Sugar could possibly be as addictive as hard drugs.

Below are portions of an article in Women’s Health by Gretchen Voss.

The typical American now swallows the equivalent of 22 sugar cubes every 24 hours.  That means the average woman eats 70 pounds of straight sugar every year.  Both the American Heart Association and the World Health Organization recently released guidelines urging most women to stay under 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day.

Over time, consuming that much added sugar can lead to diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease as well as breast, endometrial and colon cancers.  One new study found that normal-weight people who loaded up on sugar doubled their risk of dying from heart disease.  Other research pinpoints excess sugar as a major cause of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease which can lead to liver failure.

Even more research shows that hyper-sweet foods may be as addictive as the hardest-to-quit drugs.  Bingeing on sweets can cause a surge of dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter, in your brain’s reward center.  Repeated spikes can desensitize that center, which could release less and less dopamine, leaving you needing more and more sugar to score a rush.  A recent study suggests that sugary cookies could be as addictive as cocaine or morphine.  Now, that’s scary.

When scientists scanned the brains of subjects who’d just eaten a high-sugar treat, everyone’s nucleus accumbens–the part of the brain that switches on when a person shoots heroin or smokes crack–was lit up like fireworks.  By contrast, the control group that swallowed low-sugar fare had no nucleus accumbens activity.

Further research suggests that the more you weigh, the duller your “sweet” taste buds can become, meaning you may have to shovel in even more sugar to get the same sensory satisfaction.

When sugar hits your stomach, enzymes begin breaking it down into two molecules:  glucose and fructose.  Sugar from sugar cane or sugar beets are equal parts glucose and fructose.  However, high-fructose corn syrup often has more processed fructose than glucose.  What does this mean?

Both glucose and fructose seep through the walls of your small intestine into the bloodstream.  But many sweet treats are loaded with so much glucose that it floods your body, lending you a quick high, but your brain counters by shooting out serotonin, a sleep-regulating hormone.  Cue: sugar crash.

The glucose also triggers your pancreas to secrete insulin and insulin blocks the production of leptin which is the “hunger hormone”.  The higher your insulin levels, the hungrier you will feel.  Now, in a simulated starvation mode, your brain directs your body to start storing glucose as belly fat.  The insulin surging in your brain which makes the brain produce less dopamine–this opens the door for cravings and addiction-like neurochemistry.  Furthermore, your pancreas has pumped out so much insulin that your cells have become resistant leaving glucose to float in your bloodstream.  This could contribute to prediabetes or eventually full-force diabetes.

At the same time, too much fructose lowers HDL (the “good” cholesterol) and spurs the production of triglycerides raising your risk for heart attack or stroke.  Your liver sends an S.O.S. for extra insulin.  Your pancreas is now overwhelmed which can results in total-body inflammation which puts you at an even higher risk for obesity and diabetes.

So there you have it.  I needed to read this because I overloaded on sugar this weekend.  It tastes so good at the time, but now I regret it.  Well, most of it.  Not all of it.  But I’ll post on my weekend in Athens later when the rest of my blog post isn’t forever long.

Running Tip:  Research in PLOS Medicine suggests that strength training for at least an hour a week slashes a woman’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 28%!  Two and a half hours of cardio and at least an hour of strength training per week can cut your risk by two-thirds!

Quote of the Day:

“Life is like a box of crayons.  Most people are the eight-color boxes, but what you’re really looking for are the sixty-four-color boxes with the sharpeners on the back.” -John Mayer

I’m not gonna lie.  I always look for the 64-color box.  Now, for a recipe.  I will definitely make this pancake again.  And I did not make a typo by saying “pancake” without the “s” because it is one big pancake!  And I’m sure you could substitute chocolate chips in there or something if you don’t want blueberries.  But I’m totally a blueberry pancake fan.  And I bet you guessed right–this was what I made for dinner two weeks ago.  Well, I made it for dinner and then had 3 extra servings for lunches.  But breakfast for dinner wins again!  And, Shawn, this means you have another magazine coming your way now that I’ve posted this recipe! 🙂

DSC_4223 Oven-Baked Blueberry Pancake

Oven-Baked Blueberry Pancake


– 1 cup AP flour

– 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar

– 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

– 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

– 3/4 cup whole milk

– 1 large egg, room temp

– 2 tablespoons butter, melted, plus 1 tablespoon for the pan

– 1 cup blueberries

– maple syrup, for serving


– Preheat oven to 375* with a rack in the upper third.  Place a 10-inch OVENPROOF skillet in the oven.

– Whisk together flour, 3 tbsp granulated sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl.

– Whisk together milk, egg and melted butter in another bowl.  Whisk milk mixture into flour mixture until just combined.

– Remove skillet from oven and add remaining 1 tablespoon butter, swirling to coat.  Pour in batter and smooth top with an offset spatula.  Sprinkle evenly with blueberries and remaining 1 teaspoon granulated sugar.

– Bake until golden brown and cooked through, about 25 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes before serving.

Courtesy of Martha Stewart Living

This entry was posted in Individual Workouts, Nutrition, Overall Health and News, Recipes. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Your Body on Sugar (Recipe: Oven-Baked Blueberry Pancake)

  1. Kyle says:

    Sugar is as addictive as heroine, and it’s in nearly everything we eat. Breaking the sugar addiction is nearly impossible. Even if you manage to break the addiction, you’ll still consume sugar in daily meals (unless you go hardcore and grow your own food).
    Nice post. Bring me cookies.

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