According to the mainstream media, and that includes social media. Sugar is toxic, addictive and destroying the western world. An obesity crisis once blamed upon fat is now the fault of sugar.
So many people on Facebook and in the real world keep mentioning sugar addiction, it's drug like properties and the relief they feel when they kick the habit makes it seem like sugar is the new meth or tobacco. Yet unlike both those substances we actually need sugar to perform bodily functions and to survive.
Here's a little sugar addiction test for you. Find some sugar, this admittedly may be a little hard if you've already erradicated it from your life. Rule number one of addiction therapy must surely be, avoid the triggers. Anyway, get yourself some sugar from somewhere, not donuts, not cake, just pure table sugar. Or to give it its proper name, sucrose. A disaccharide combination of the monosaccharides glucose and fructose.
Eat a spoonful, then see how much you feel like having another. You may eat a couple but you won't be consumed by an all encompassing desire to keep shovelling it down your throat. Whilst it isn't unpleasant, you wouldn't want much and you wouldn't want to do it often. Does that sound like an addictive substance? Does it sound like a drug in which you could become dependent upon, like heroin or cocaine? The addictive aspect that people consider so problamatic is what we should probably refer to as cravings.
Why would we be craving sweetness? Hunger and if someone wants to crowdfund me through a PhD I'd love to finally try and get some proof about our insatiable hunger. In the meantime here are a few of my theories;
- We are hungry, and it seems we're eating less than we have been previously recorded as eating. As sugar is our primary source of energy it would seem logical that we crave sweetness when we are under eating.
- Foods made with combinations of sugar, fat, and salt can be hard to resist and in turn make us crave more. The food industry knows this and employ people that understand the psychological and biological mechanisms that make us crave more of their foods. If you want more on this fascinating topic please have a look in my Amazon store (Diet Research Section) for a great book about food industry strategy.
Davina's "scary science bit" mentioned the World Health Organisation's (WHO) guidelines on sugar from 2002. A quick venture online and you can find the latest edition of this highly scientific document.
Within that document (page 12 if I remember correctly) we can see the quality of evidence that was used to determine such strong recommendations.
As you can see, Davina's book has a lot of sugar contained within the recipes. This caused a bit of an online backlash from both the pro-sugar camp, mocking the fact that sugar was openly used, and the anti-sugar camp who were disgusted that it wasn't extreme enough. Davina fought back via Twitter and pointed out that it was a plan that ended up sugar free, and not sugar free from the outset.
So, do we really need sugar? It appears we do, let's look at our most vital bodily part the brain. Your brain almost exclusively relies upon glucose, except during prolonged starvation (as encouraged by most media sources). It consumes around 120g daily which is about 420 calories so it would seem daft to avoid it when our survival is dependent upon it.
All forms of digestible carbohydrate must be broken down into monosacharide (simple sugar) in order to be used by your body. From your local expensive honey right the way through to your slice of wholewheat bread. It has to breakdown into monosacharide in order to be utilised.
So all the carbohydrate based foods in Davina's book end up broken down into simple sugar anyway, so why the big fuss about eradicating it from our diets? More likely than not it's just another excuse to make money for an industry focused on profit rather than scientific evidence.
Note: your body can catabolise tissue and fat (although it prefers to hold onto fat) in order to produce its own supply but I thought I'd avoid making it too much of a "scary science bit" and leave that for a later blog post.
- To conclude, sugar isn't addictive, it is as essential as the air you breath. Food processed by industry to contain the right combination of sugars and fats makes you crave them, as does being on a diet, even an unintentional one. If you're going to claim a food is addictive, have some evidence and clarify exactly what the food is, not just generic terms.