LAFAYETTE -- The war between sugar and the bodies that love it is nothing new, but the systematic overhaul Julia Ross' Mill Valley Recovery System and her newly updated book "The Diet Cure" give the sweet enemy new respect, and fighting it new urgency.

It's an update to Ross' 1999 book that offers a prospective route to effectively treating addictive dietary habits.

"I had seven publishers bid on the book," says author and clinician Ross, to those gathered at a recent Commonwealth Club lecture at the Lafayette Library and Learning Center, "and numerous calls from editors asking me to solve their problems along the way."

With a national move to remove fats from the diet, she said, the dietary void was filled with something else.

"We switched toward refined carbohydrates and sugar-sweetened foods," Ross said, showing a smorgasbord of doughnuts, cookies and bread, titled, "drugged foods."

The trends prompted Ross to overhaul her 13-year-old book.

"I recently gutted 40 percent of the book and published it again. The audience had grown ... in every sense of the word," Ross said, no humor intended.

Growing up in the 1960s, Ross said she and other Americans ate "three squares" a day and were unaccustomed to people being overweight. Few meals were skipped, and bedtime snacks were a favorite.

"It's only been since 1970 that we've had a problem," Ross said, pointing to a projected image of Twiggy, the string bean of a model whose barely-there profile she credited with launching generations of eating disordered females.

"Disfigurement, degenerative disease, death, diabetes, kidney trouble, amputation ... " she called out at the Lafayette library, before turning the full fury of her attention to sugar, citing the research of Robert Lustig, a San Francisco pediatric endocrinologist, and a number of studies from leading research institutions.

"Sugar ... The death rate associated with overeating is 35 million. Tobacco? Just 3.5 million. Sugar and sugar substitutes are four times more addictive than cocaine," she said.

High-fructose corn syrup, introduced in the 1970s with its 60 percent unbound fructose, ravaged the brain's regulatory centers, Ross said, causing an addictive, uncontrollable desire for the very thing that was creating the damage.

"Soda has increased by 135 percent, nutrition deficiencies in women have risen 430 percent. We're dieting all the time: trying to not eat, to counterbalance the terrible foods we are consuming," Ross said.

The solutions, she insists, are found in nourishing the brain back to health with biochemical rebalancing. Neurotransmitters found in meat, fish, eggs and cheese put saturated fats back into the diet and turn off cravings.

"The Diet Cure" -- after a cautionary note to consult with a qualified health care provider before embarking on suggestions made in the book -- takes readers through investigative exercises to determine food addictions, chemical imbalances and related nutritional handicaps that Ross said prevent healthy eating.

Audience questions centered on specifics, like artificial sweeteners and Ross' opinions of other diet programs.

"Why is the FDA not involved?" asked another person.

"I'd rather not answer, but I suggest all of you address the FDA," she encouraged.

"As a parent, what can I do in a sugar-saturated world?" a young mother asked.

"Cure your own addiction," Ross recommended.

Answering a multitude of questions, Ross reiterated that feeding the brain required simple techniques based on science. A final question -- Do you eat sugar? -- prompted everyone to laugh.

Ross said she has what she calls "a healthy immunity" to sugar's allure: She gets headaches powerful enough to steer her away from "the enemy" and motivate her to stay at the forefront of the battle against dietary addiction.