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Why Is Food "Addiction" So Controversial?

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  • Speakeasy76Speakeasy76 Member Posts: 308 Member Member Posts: 308 Member
    https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/sucrose-glucose-fructose#which-is-worst?

    While this article is speculative, there may be some truth behind the theory that sugar (refined sugar, fructose specifically) may be addictive. I don't think it is addictive for everyone, but possibly for people who are already genetically predisposed to addiction or have other mental health struggles.

    One of the "My 600-lb life" shows had a man who had once been addicted to alcohol and/or drugs. Once he quit those, it appeared he used food to replace those.

    I know I was the one that first mentioned the show, but I think it's at least worth mentioning that multiple people who have appeared on the show have gone on to claim that some scenes were outright constructed -- either through editing or having the producers request certain scenes, which is something to keep in mind when we're using it as a basis for claims about food addiction. I have no doubt the people on that show struggle with food control, but we can't take for granted that it looks exactly like what we're seeing when we watch the show.

    (I'm not at all questioning your initial point that someone who has a tendency to be addicted to one thing may be more vulnerable to other addictions, that seems like something that could easily be true).

    I definitely think there were parts of the show that were edited to make the show entertaining, especially the appointments and interviews with the bariatric doctor. That always seemed somewhat scripted to me. I don't watch the show regularly--ironically the few times I'd watch it would be when I was in my basement on the elliptical. I'd always feel a bit guilty watching it, too, although I know the people agree to be on it and I'm assuming get free treatment.
  • qhob_89qhob_89 Member Posts: 72 Member Member Posts: 72 Member
    ccrdragon wrote: »
    qhob_89 wrote: »
    ccrdragon wrote: »
    MsCzar wrote: »
    Technically, cocaine isn't physically addictive, but no one much argues the semantics there. For a cocaine user, the dopamine rush can become an all-consuming compulsion. Being able to survive without a craved substance doesn't define addiction and that argument defies all logic. IMO, anything which lights up the pleasure centers of the brain and results in an irresistible obsession for more more more despite any negative consequences constitutes an addiction.

    This is exactly the argument that people use to claim that sugar is addictive. The problem with that argument is that the people who claim sugar is addictive cannot explain why 'people who are addicted to sugar' aren't stuffing themselves on fruit that is high in sugar or vegetables that are high in sugar or something like that.... they only use it to explain why people eat snack cakes and muffins and candy and claim that the reaction to the sugar in the junk is different than the reaction to the sugar in the good stuff (even tho the sugar in the fruit and the sugar in the snacks is the exact same chemical thing). This is the problem that I have with the label of 'addiction' being applied to food - it is almost always applied in a very selective manner that cannot be justified scientifically.

    I’ll try...
    https://www.verywellmind.com/how-sugar-affects-the-brain-4065218

    https://www.healthdesigns.net/natural-vs-refined-sugar/

    1 strawberry has 0.6 grams of sugar in it. A tootsie roll pop has 11 grams of sugar in it. A package of pop tarts (2) has 30 grams of sugar in it.
    So you’d need 50 strawberries to equal eating a package of pop tarts. It’s also natural vs. processed sugars, our bodies process them differently.
    Sugar lights up the reward center of our brain, just as other substances the more you light it up, the more it wants, and the larger quantity it needs for the same result.

    No, our bodies do not.

    In the article that you linked, these are 2 of the opening paragraphs:

    'Natural sugars are found in fruit as fructose and in dairy products, such as milk and cheese, as lactose. These foods contain essential nutrients that keep the body healthy and help prevent disease. Natural sources of sugar are digested slower and help you feel full for longer. It also helps keep your metabolism stable.

    Refined sugar, or sucrose, comes from sugar cane or sugar beets, which are processed to extract the sugar. Food manufacturers then add the chemically produced sugar, typically high-fructose corn syrup, to many packaged foods. The body breaks down refined sugar rapidly, which causes insulin and blood sugar levels to skyrocket. Since it is digested quickly, you don’t feel full after you’re done eating, regardless of how much you ate.'

    In the first paragraph, the statement that natural sugars are digested slower is ONLY true if there is enough fiber/fat/protein in the food source to slow down the digestion process - as an example, check out the following link that details why the sugar is absorbed more slowly:

    https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/apples-and-diabetes#blood-sugar

    In the second paragraph, the statement that refined sugar breaks down rapidly is false, because the breakdown of the sugar would be affected by exactly the same limitations as the breakdown of the sugar in the apple cited in the previous link.

    As far as the body is concerned, sugar is sugar is sugar, regardless of where it comes from. Whether it is sucrose (table sugar), fructose (fruit sugar), high-fructose corn syrup (corn) or lactose (milk sugar), it has to be broken down into glucose for the body to do anything with it.

    The candy that you cite (if eaten by itself on an empty stomach) may be processed faster than the strawberry, but it still resolves to glucose as the end product of the digestion. As to the argument that we want more and more and more, why aren't there stories all over the place of people who are eating sugar straight out of bags? I mean, why bother with eating candy or pop-tarts or some other heavily sugared item when you can get all the sugar that you crave by simply eating it out of the bag of sugar?

    Hi... I’m quoting you because you bolded the statement I’d like to touch on... thank you (and others) for clarifying what I said. I was trying to refer to how the body reacts (blood sugar, etc.) and misspoke. I apologize for my poor choice of words in trying to summarize. I understand the body processes sugar the same, I’m outside of my edit timeframe or I’d go edit my wording to avoid spreading any misinformation. Thanks for calling that out so nobody takes my mess up as valid info!

    As to your question regarding eating sugar out of the bag, I definitely don’t have the answer. I’m also not a “sugar addict” or “food addict” so maybe others could speak to this a bit better than I could, but again I’ll take a stab at it. In my opinion, I think it probably comes down to social acceptance. Nobody bats an eye if you bring a dozen donuts to the office party or have a bowl of candy on your desk... if you brought a bag of sugar to the party or others saw you eating sugar out of the bag you’d probably get a lot of stares, side eyes, and be labeled a “weirdo.” Doesn’t mean people don’t want more to satisfy the “itch” they’re just going to choose something like candy bars instead of 50 strawberries or the bag of sugar. It’s cheaper and more readily available. Also, probably taste and satisfaction... I know plenty of people (myself included) who consume plenty of sugar- 39g in a can of Coke, I can easily drink 2 of those- that roughly converts to 19 teaspoons. You couldn’t get me to eat 1 raw tsp of sugar, let alone 19!
  • lemurcat2lemurcat2 Member, Premium Posts: 6,744 Member Member, Premium Posts: 6,744 Member
    qhob_89 wrote: »
    As to your question regarding eating sugar out of the bag, I definitely don’t have the answer. I’m also not a “sugar addict” or “food addict” so maybe others could speak to this a bit better than I could, but again I’ll take a stab at it. In my opinion, I think it probably comes down to social acceptance. Nobody bats an eye if you bring a dozen donuts to the office party or have a bowl of candy on your desk... if you brought a bag of sugar to the party or others saw you eating sugar out of the bag you’d probably get a lot of stares, side eyes, and be labeled a “weirdo.” Doesn’t mean people don’t want more to satisfy the “itch” they’re just going to choose something like candy bars instead of 50 strawberries or the bag of sugar. It’s cheaper and more readily available. Also, probably taste and satisfaction... I know plenty of people (myself included) who consume plenty of sugar- 39g in a can of Coke, I can easily drink 2 of those- that roughly converts to 19 teaspoons. You couldn’t get me to eat 1 raw tsp of sugar, let alone 19!

    I don't think it's social acceptance, as people with addictive behavior know that behavior is not socially acceptable, and even non food addicted fat people often know their eating habits may not be socially acceptable. When I was obese, I would always order healthy, lower cal foods when eating out with normal weight people, and even if they got a dessert, I would always decline, since I thought people would judge the fat person eating high cal foods. I've heard plenty of stories too, about someone ordering a pizza and three small cokes, so they wouldn't be assumed to be eating it all themselves.

    I also think eating in secret is likely very common even among those without specific disordered eating, but certainly those with disordered or addictive tendencies. If sugar were the best way to feed a high or whatever, I think people would certainly eat sugar in secret just as they might secretly eat a whole large pizza or an entire large bag of chips or, yes, a dozen donuts.

    Thus, I think the reason people don't generally (not saying there aren't exceptions) eat plain sugar is that it doesn't taste good, especially compared to a bowl of ice cream or an apple. And that goes back to the fact that I really don't think it is the addictive power of sugar that causes overeating, but that people tend to overeat foods that taste good to them, when they are available.

    I don't think sugar creates a high. I do think that anything we enjoy (and tasty food in general, actually) lights up the pleasure center of the brain (or however one wants to put it) and that it is possible for any such thing to probably become an addiction given the right circumstances. But again, that's more supportive of a possible food or eating addiction than "sugar is an addictive substance."
  • lemurcat2lemurcat2 Member, Premium Posts: 6,744 Member Member, Premium Posts: 6,744 Member
    qhob_89 wrote: »
    lemurcat2 wrote: »
    qhob_89 wrote: »
    As to your question regarding eating sugar out of the bag, I definitely don’t have the answer. I’m also not a “sugar addict” or “food addict” so maybe others could speak to this a bit better than I could, but again I’ll take a stab at it. In my opinion, I think it probably comes down to social acceptance. Nobody bats an eye if you bring a dozen donuts to the office party or have a bowl of candy on your desk... if you brought a bag of sugar to the party or others saw you eating sugar out of the bag you’d probably get a lot of stares, side eyes, and be labeled a “weirdo.” Doesn’t mean people don’t want more to satisfy the “itch” they’re just going to choose something like candy bars instead of 50 strawberries or the bag of sugar. It’s cheaper and more readily available. Also, probably taste and satisfaction... I know plenty of people (myself included) who consume plenty of sugar- 39g in a can of Coke, I can easily drink 2 of those- that roughly converts to 19 teaspoons. You couldn’t get me to eat 1 raw tsp of sugar, let alone 19!

    I don't think it's social acceptance, as people with addictive behavior know that behavior is not socially acceptable, and even non food addicted fat people often know their eating habits may not be socially acceptable. When I was obese, I would always order healthy, lower cal foods when eating out with normal weight people, and even if they got a dessert, I would always decline, since I thought people would judge the fat person eating high cal foods. I've heard plenty of stories too, about someone ordering a pizza and three small cokes, so they wouldn't be assumed to be eating it all themselves.

    I also think eating in secret is likely very common even among those without specific disordered eating, but certainly those with disordered or addictive tendencies. If sugar were the best way to feed a high or whatever, I think people would certainly eat sugar in secret just as they might secretly eat a whole large pizza or an entire large bag of chips or, yes, a dozen donuts.

    You don’t think it has anything to do with social acceptance? But you also acknowledge that you adjusted your own behavior for fear of judgment. And acknowledge that eating in secret is likely very common, which is typically done to avoid judgment or shame. Just as people typically use drugs privately and not out in the open or people become “closet alcoholics.” Just because people know it’s socially unacceptable doesn’t necessarily stop them, but they will typically adjust their behavior socially for the sake of social acceptance.

    I don't think it's social acceptance since I don't think eating a dozen donuts OR sugar out of the bag are socially acceptable and both would likely be done as much in secret as possible. (The sugar has the benefit of giving you way more sugar for way fewer cals too.)

    As I understood it, you were arguing that people don't eat sugar out of the bag (despite being addicted to sugar) but overindulge in other sweet treats because the former was not socially acceptable -- did I misunderstand? Eating sugar out of the bag is obviously something that would be done at home, not publicly (unless one were to go to a restaurant with sugar packets and go to town). Thus, I don't think the reason alleged sugar addicts eat other foods rather than straight sugar can be that the latter is less socially acceptable.

    And again, to be clear, I think food/eating addiction is probably a thing (I'm not sure how it's different from disordered eating or if it needs to be for us to use the term). I don't think the argument for a specific sugar addiction because sugar is allegedly so incredibly physically addicting makes sense at all.

    I also don't think you need dependence (the physical aspect of addiction) for something to be addictive.
    edited January 22
  • qhob_89qhob_89 Member Posts: 72 Member Member Posts: 72 Member
    lemurcat2 wrote: »
    qhob_89 wrote: »
    lemurcat2 wrote: »
    qhob_89 wrote: »
    As to your question regarding eating sugar out of the bag, I definitely don’t have the answer. I’m also not a “sugar addict” or “food addict” so maybe others could speak to this a bit better than I could, but again I’ll take a stab at it. In my opinion, I think it probably comes down to social acceptance. Nobody bats an eye if you bring a dozen donuts to the office party or have a bowl of candy on your desk... if you brought a bag of sugar to the party or others saw you eating sugar out of the bag you’d probably get a lot of stares, side eyes, and be labeled a “weirdo.” Doesn’t mean people don’t want more to satisfy the “itch” they’re just going to choose something like candy bars instead of 50 strawberries or the bag of sugar. It’s cheaper and more readily available. Also, probably taste and satisfaction... I know plenty of people (myself included) who consume plenty of sugar- 39g in a can of Coke, I can easily drink 2 of those- that roughly converts to 19 teaspoons. You couldn’t get me to eat 1 raw tsp of sugar, let alone 19!

    I don't think it's social acceptance, as people with addictive behavior know that behavior is not socially acceptable, and even non food addicted fat people often know their eating habits may not be socially acceptable. When I was obese, I would always order healthy, lower cal foods when eating out with normal weight people, and even if they got a dessert, I would always decline, since I thought people would judge the fat person eating high cal foods. I've heard plenty of stories too, about someone ordering a pizza and three small cokes, so they wouldn't be assumed to be eating it all themselves.

    I also think eating in secret is likely very common even among those without specific disordered eating, but certainly those with disordered or addictive tendencies. If sugar were the best way to feed a high or whatever, I think people would certainly eat sugar in secret just as they might secretly eat a whole large pizza or an entire large bag of chips or, yes, a dozen donuts.

    You don’t think it has anything to do with social acceptance? But you also acknowledge that you adjusted your own behavior for fear of judgment. And acknowledge that eating in secret is likely very common, which is typically done to avoid judgment or shame. Just as people typically use drugs privately and not out in the open or people become “closet alcoholics.” Just because people know it’s socially unacceptable doesn’t necessarily stop them, but they will typically adjust their behavior socially for the sake of social acceptance.

    I don't think it's social acceptance since I don't think eating a dozen donuts OR sugar out of the bag are socially acceptable and both would likely be done as much in secret as possible. (The sugar has the benefit of giving you way more sugar for way fewer cals too.)

    As I understood it, you were arguing that people don't eat sugar out of the bag (despite being addicted to sugar) but overindulge in other sweet treats because the former was not socially acceptable -- did I misunderstand? Eating sugar out of the bag is obviously something that would be done at home, not publicly (unless one were to go to a restaurant with sugar packets and go to town). Thus, I don't think the reason alleged sugar addicts eat other foods rather than straight sugar can be that the latter is less socially acceptable.

    And again, to be clear, I think food/eating addiction is probably a thing (I'm not sure how it's different from disordered eating or if it needs to be for us to use the term). I don't think the argument for a specific sugar addiction because sugar is allegedly so incredibly physically addicting makes sense at all.

    I also don't think you need dependence (the physical aspect of addiction) for something to be addictive.

    I understand what you’re saying. As both of us addressed, I think it has more to do with taste/satisfaction. I even pointed out I can easily consume large amounts of sugar, but wouldn’t eat even a teaspoon of raw sugar. I also believe there’s a small social acceptance aspect to it (if someone really wanted to eat raw sugar). But I believe social acceptance plays a role in how the majority go about indulging in whatever addiction they are living with.
    I was addressing a hypothetical question about eating sugar out of the bag... don’t know of anybody doing this, but if they wanted to (meaning taste or satisfaction wasn’t the issue for them) then it’s likely social acceptance that prevents them from doing it. However, as to why people don’t do it to feed their “sugar addiction” is probably more to do with taste/satisfaction.
    I feel like I’m talking in circles, so I hope that clarifies.
  • kshama2001kshama2001 Member Posts: 23,470 Member Member Posts: 23,470 Member
    zamphir66 wrote: »
    I remembered another wrinkle to this discussion that sometimes (often?) comes up in these parts. It's the two-step shuffle from "food addiction" to "the food-industrial complex is wholly responsible for my addiction and ought to do something about it."

    I think that conclusion is unhelpful, even if food addition is "real," whatever that means. It betrays an external locus of control.

    In recovering from alcohol, I've often had the thought, or heard others express the thought, that it's terrible how much Big Alcohol spends on ad buys, how normalized drinking is, the rise of "Mommy Wine Culture," the nonsensicalness of the phrase "drugs and alcohol" (as if alcohol weren't a drug), and how, if someone could swoop in and just fix all that, wouldn't our recovery be so much easier?

    Well, maybe. But that's not going to happen. We live in the world we live in. I can control what I can control, and I have to gracefully let go of what I can't.

    Hmm, while I do see "the food-industrial complex is wholly responsible" posts in "addicted to sugar!!!" threads, my recollection is that they are mainly RESPONSES from others - the OPs are asking for practical strategies to deal with their perceived issue.
  • kshama2001kshama2001 Member Posts: 23,470 Member Member Posts: 23,470 Member
    I am grateful for the policy of keeping sugar debates here in Debate and not in an "addicted to sugar!!!" thread:

    https://community.myfitnesspal.com/en/discussion/10331444/welcome-to-the-debate-health-and-fitness-category-please-read
    As a result of creating this category, our team is asking that members respectfully allow the main forums as place to address the OP's questions as opposed to debating the semantics and/or arguing the use of terms. For example, if an OP requests help on their sugar addiction, that you do not debate the nature of addiction in that discussion but rather respectfully provide them a solution; keep in mind that not every person wants or needs to know all the semantics of the science behind things. If they would like to know more about the science, they can voluntarily join the discussion in these forums. Or as is always an option, simply refrain from posting.
    edited January 23
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