January 29, 2009

You Ask, I Answer: Sugar Addiction

Is it true that sugar is addicting?

For example, if I am at a party and there is a whole box of [Dunkin' Donuts] munchkins it is very hard for me to only have one!

-- Laura Bulner

Miami, FL

That is one very popular myth.

Sucrose (table sugar, and what most people refer to when they say "sugar") is simply not an addictive substance.

When singled out and studied as an individual component, it has not been shown to induce physical or psychological addiction.

I do not believe any foods in and of themselves are addictive.

I think too many people jump to that conclusion by not recognizing the strong emotions that are behind many people's food choices.

The fact that someone may binge on Oreo cookies when feeling intense loneliness, sadness, or anxiety does not mean those cookies are addictive.

What it DOES point to is an addictive personality that, for whatever reason, uses food as an emotional release.

I also find that foods that get blamed as being addictive are ones that many people often severely restrict. Not surprisingly, these extreme positions then lead to overconsumption of the "forbidden" food, be it chocolate or fries.

What I always find semi-comical is that people are quick to attribute addictive qualities solely to high-calorie, sugar-laden foods, as if to make themselves appear helpless.

You never hear, for example, someone who loves celery and eats ten stalks every single day claim that "celery is addictive."

Besides, those who are somehow convinced that sugar is addictive only feel that way about the added sugar found in pastries, chocolate, and candies.

If this supposed addiction is as powerful as they claim, it makes you wonder why naturally sweet foods like fruits somehow don't "hit the spot."

Also, Laura, I am not sure why not being able to stop yourself at one individual piece of a particular food automatically makes it addictive, even more so in a situation where the food is in front of you for a long period of time.

The same thing you say about munchkins could be said about cheese, tortilla chips, sushi rolls, or blueberries!


Anonymous said...

I find the new trend of being "addicted to sugar" annoying. Speaking as one who struggles with cigarettes, I can tell you it's a whole different kind of craving. I do crave kickboxing, satsuma oranges, strawberries, chocolate, even celery sometimes, not to mention a nice hot bath, but these have no physical component (perhaps endorphins from exercise), but I think mostly people just want to put responsibility elsewhere rather than their own choices. Before I learned to moderate my sugar intake, I was more likely to lose control with this stuff. Now I can just take a small bite, or a mini-slice, and be happy, no freaking out necessary.

WifeMomChocoholic said...

I just read in Karen Koenig's blog that a new study showed sugar may very well be addictive!

Andy Bellatti said...

I am not convinced.

The fact remains that, unlike drugs, sugar does not satisfy enough "dependence" criteria in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) to classify as an addictive substance.

The human body does not become dependent of sugar in the same way it does of heroin or cocaine.

One big problem with the studies (done on rats) is that the amount of sugar they use is way too large to put it in a realistic and appropriate context for humans.

Anonymous said...

One thing i see with studies...... One day they are bad for you and a few years down the line, they are a miracle cure. which is it???????