When you hear the word “addiction”, I’m sure your mind goes straight to drugs, alcohol or some practices. But sugar addiction is real and some people might not just be aware of what it is and the fact that they’re victims.
In this write up, we would help explain what sugar addiction is, why you always crave sugar and some tips to help overcome the feeling.
Quitting sounds logical as that is the remedy for other types of addictions, but for sugar, it’s not as simple as that.
Firstly, what is addiction?
There are two categories of addiction, which are:
1. A substance addiction such as drugs, alcohol or tobacco
2. A non-substance behavioural addiction such as gambling.
So, the definition could be controversial if you view it with just one lens.
Some reports have suggested that sugar addiction is a thing and some people can be addicted to it as heroin and cocaine. Some people who might be addictive to other foods with “addictive agents” like fat and salt could also show same result as someone with drug addiction. Even with all these speculations, no actual study has been carried out on human subjects concerning drug addiction.
Sugar addiction – is it the same as being addicted to drugs?
Since we somewhat have agreed that sugar addiction is a thing, we need to check if it’s the same thing with substance addiction and probably has the same symptoms.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), it diagnoses a Substance Use Disorder (substances such as tobacco, alcohol, drugs) based on 11 symptoms. These can be grouped into four categories:
• Impaired control: symptoms relating to failed attempt to stop drug use after noticing a strong desire and craving to use such drug.
• Social issues: symptoms relating to a disruption of person’s work, home and social life.
• Risky use: symptoms relating to continuous use of drug/substance even after being aware of the consequences.
• Drug physiological effects: symptoms of tolerance (when the body requires more of the substance to have same effect) and withdrawal ( the body shows withdrawal symptoms when the drug is no longer in the body).
So, Are These Symptoms the same in Sugar Addiction?
You might need to ask yourself if you’ve notice same symptoms as mentioned above before.
• Do I have cravings and a strong desire to eat sugary foods? Yes!
• Have I repeatedly attempted to cut back or “quit” sugar? Yes!
• Do I feel so “out of control” with food that I’m not in the mood to attend social events? Yes!
How is this Diagnosed?
– For a substance use disorder diagnosis, the symptoms need to cause “significant impairment or distress” meaning that the distress should impair daily functioning of the individual.
This significant distress might most likely be linked to eating patterns and might even be more of an overall eating disorder.
– Secondly, a key part of diagnosis shows that the symptoms produce physiological effects. Drug taking can cause people to develop withdrawal and tolerance symptoms. No studies shows that sugar taking can lead to tolerance and withdrawal.
So am I addicted to sugar if I crave it all the time?
Reasons why you might be craving sugar every time might include:
Recent articles supports that the root cause of overeating a particular food or feeling out of control around food is restriction and not addiction. This knowledge comes with evidence thaty if you restrict yourself from a particular food, you even want it more and would tend to consume more of it if given the chance. Restrictive food rules which recommends elimination of foods leads to the exacerbation of disordered eating.
For the animal studies that claims that sugar is addictive, these studies failed to emphasise that these animals were actually deprived of sugar for a long time, so they’ll obviously binge on it when re-introduced.
2) Food is pleasurable (which is not a bad thing!) and needed for survival
Food is for survival and the major basic fuel we need to stay alive. Sugar is needed for the functioning of our body, so how would one suggest that you can be addicted to it?
Now, when we mean sugar, I hope you’re aware that we are not talking about refined or processed sugar from pastries or soda drinks but from foods (carbs).
What’s the conclusion?
Sugar can be found in starchy foods such as potatoes, breads, yam, rice, beans and pastas as well as in fruit, vegetables and dairy products. Things we usually eat in conjunction with many other things!
Now this doesn’t in any sort downplay the fact that some people might feel helpless or out of control when around some foods, but this cant be termed as addiction.
If you feel this is you, you can seek help from a registered dietitian or try intuitive eating. There are online articles on intuitive eating and so many dietitians around who could help you build a healthy relationship with food
That’s the actual thing that’s needed! A healthy relationship with food will go a long way in helping you appreciate food and its functions in the body, and also help you not to be “out-of-control’ around any particular food .