On breakfast TV recently, a ‘nutritionist’ suggested we stop allowing our children to eat cake because sugar is on a par with cocaine!
Statements like these made by respected professionals are exactly what have led to the general population being very confused about balanced, healthy eating.
I therefore just want to clarify that there is NO such thing as sugar addiction ‘per se’ – to compare it to cocaine and then relate this to our children is absolutely outrageous!
Firstly, how many of us eat spoons of sugar directly from the bag? It is actually the super palatable foods that we enjoy.The ones that contain a mixture of sugar, fat, sweet smells etc that trigger our emotions and make us feel like we cannot resist them.
Secondly, many of us have foods that we just cannot seem to just eat in moderation.These are not usually low-reward, bland foods like celery and cucumber – they tend to be the highly palatable ones that when overeaten, lead to weight gain. Our brain sees them as something that will give us immediate pleasure without considering the longer term consequences. There are many social, cultural and genetic reasons for this.
Thirdly, whilst food addiction may feel very real to some people, there is no evidence to suggest that we as humans can become addicted to a compound as such. As highlighted, it tends to be a behavioural issue which is exemplified by the summary made the research paper by Westwater et al, 2016:
‘We find little evidence to support sugar addiction in humans, and findings from the animal literature suggest that addiction-like behaviours, such as bingeing, occur only in the context of intermittent access to sugar. These behaviours likely arise from intermittent access to sweet tasting or highly palatable foods, not the neurochemical effects of sugar.’
So, you can enjoy a little sugar in your diet even if you are trying to lose weight. The key is to not over-consume it and to recognise your own triggers. It is in fact better to allow yourself a little of what you enjoy to prevent you bingeing at a later date.
Finally, don’t believe everything you hear about nutrition in the media – stick to reliable, evidence based sources 😉