I’m not really!
In fact, believe it or not, sugar addiction isn't really a thing.
We don't have a physiological dependency on sugar.
You may have heard things such-as sugar is more addictive then cocaine, heroin or what-ever class A drug you want to add to the mix.
A very important detail which isn’t mentioned with a lot of these statements, is that these findings are based on studies in rats, you know the animals that lurk round bins.
There was a study by James Dinicolantonio where they got rats hooked on cocaine, then they introduced sugar, the rats then switched their attention to the sugar.
The brain signals a similar feeling of reward from cocaine that food does.
To give this cocaine/sugar switch some context, really give that some thought for a second…
Would a human really ditch cocaine for sugar?
When it comes to humans, there is NO evidence to suggest that this is the case.
“But I can’t stop eating chocolate, I'm addicted to it?”
The thing is as I mentioned, although we don’t have a physiological dependency to sugar there ARE addictive behaviour patterns linked to high sugar foods and how this makes us feel.
When we eat foods that are high in protein, they help with our feelings of fullness (satiety) and send signals for us to stop eating.
Ben and Jerry’s ice cream on the other hand does not!
The signals we get are of a hedonic (pleasurable) nature as most sugary foods are, and who doesn’t want more pleasure in their lives??!!
As B&J’s is a combination of high carb and high fat, it is hyper-palatable (easy to eat), we don’t get those signals of fullness, we just keep eating more in the pursuit of feeling full and eating 800-1000 calories in the process.
Sugar has no more calories than any other macronutrient, 4 calories per gram, however as we have the potential to eat more, due to the lack of satiety from these foods, this is what leads to over-consumption of calories, thus weight gain.
Energy balance - calories in vs calories out always dictates whether you’re going to gain or lose weight. Eating foods which are very easy to eat, which also happen to make us feel happy, make weight gain a whole lot easier.
It’s also important to note, that foods that are high in sugar are mostly considered “junk food”. Their vitamin and mineral content tends to be poor, and low in fibre which helps keep food in our stomachs for longer therefore making us more satiated.
Let’s go back to behaviours….
Let’s say you’ve had a bad day at work, and you’re going to have something sweet and sugary to make you feel better, that’s not an addiction, that’s a habit/emotional eating, which I won’t go into today as it’s a huge broad topic, that you use to deal with how you’re feeling at that particular moment. Making yourself happier by eating foods that are going to make you happy.
The attitude we have for foods with high palatability such as cake, ice-cream, biscuits etc we are knowingly careful about consuming, what I mean by this is we know we can’t have a huge bar of chocolate for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
As we have to exercise some control our intake of these foods it gives the food we’re trying not to eat more importance as say we're dieting and eat too much chocolate for example, "that's probably not a good thing and I need to be careful," we've talked up in our heads the importance of not consuming or over-consuming that chocolate.
So, when we do want to eat some chocolate this now becomes a craving for something we have to have some restraint with.
Then we try and explain why resisting that craving is hard, for example “as it tastes so good.” When we then fail and give into the craving we then believe it’s because we’re addicted to it.
But it actually has more to do with the importance of the implications of consuming that bar of chocolate but failing that leads to calls of addiction.
If chocolate wasn’t completely off limits and we could enjoy some every day as part of a balanced diet our attitude would be different as chances are the cravings wouldn’t exist, along with the so called “addiction.”
See more here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10837838
Celebrities going sugar free seems to be a bit of a craze these days, and Davin McCall is actively doing her part to lead the way towards sugar-free Britain.
Although as this post from Sean Armstrong Fitness points out, there maybe a few flaws of going sugar free when it comes to weight loss:
Sugar itself is not addictive, but the behaviours and attitudes surrounding the consumption of highly palatable foods can be of an “addictive” nature.
If you do well cutting it out then great, sugar/carbohydrate is not essential in our diets. But for most of us, sugar makes food taste good.
If we can implement some “junk” as part of a balanced diet, where we eat good wholesome foods that will help keep us satiated, chances are the calls of sugar addiction and the obesity implications it bring’s with it will eventually become a myth once our understanding and challenging of the behaviours around cravings change.
Love to hear your thoughts!