are you addicted to sugar?

are you addicted to sugar?

Author Damian Thompson thinks you are. In fact, he thinks 40% of Americans are addicted to sugar, making it the number one eating problem we face.

Thompson has a new book out titled "The Fix: How Addiction is Invading Our Lives and Taking Over Your World." I haven't yet read the book, but I'm going to quote him through an article at, "Why cupcakes are the new cocaine - ‘Sugar is our number one eating problem - I think 40 per cent of the population has some sort of addiction to it'.

are you addicted to sugar?

From the article:

Year after year, the West’s love affair with sugar intensifies. But we pay very little attention to our compulsive attitude to the stuff. This is partly because we don’t like to think about it - and partly because we’ve been misled into thinking that our consumption of saturated fat lies at the heart of obesity and eating disorders.

Increasing numbers of doctors think sugar does more harm to our arteries and our waistlines than fat. So does the restaurateur Henry Dimbleby, who runs the award-winning Leon chain of restaurants.

“Sugar is our number one eating problem - I think 40 per cent of the population has some sort of addiction to it,” he says.

“Watch what happens in an office when somebody walks in carrying a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts. There’s a general squealing sound and everyone rushes over excitedly. You’d think someone had just arrived at a party with a few grams of coke. People descend on it in the same way.”

He then goes on to talk about the science of sugar, as well as some examples of sugar-goods in social settings..

We’ve known for years that refined sugar is also implicated in damaging the liver and kidneys and is the main cause of the worldwide spread of Type 2 diabetes.

Evidence published by Princeton scientists in 2008 demonstrates that rats can get addicted to sugar in the same way that they get addicted to cocaine and amphetamines. In contrast, there’s no such damning data in the case of fat. You may have a deep love of Kentucky Fried Chicken and get fat as a result, but you’re less likely to eat it until you feel sick.

Think back to the last office party you attended, and what was left over afterwards. I wonder if there has ever been an office “do” in which people had to clear away half-eaten boxes of chocolates — but didn’t need to throw away any sandwiches because they’d all been wolfed down.

I doubt it. Cake is occasionally unfinished because it’s filling. Even then, however, it tends to be saved for later rather than discarded, unlike the poor sandwiches. Super-sugary doughnuts, however, never make it to the end of the party. It would be interesting to know what proportion of sweet as opposed to savoury food ends up in the world’s bins.

Next the article talks about the food industry's introduction of new sugar-carrying devices: mini-bites, and the ever-more-ridiculous people get in their attempts to make up reasons why they need to stop by the desk at the office with the jar of mini-bites on it. (Of course I need to photocopy this blank piece of paper, and I'll take the long way to the copy machine so I can say hi to Suzy. Oh and what's this - Suzy has yummy snacks at her desk? How lucky for me!)

Should we worry? Yes — for several reasons. Cupcakes and mini-bites don’t just play havoc with our blood sugar levels: they reinforce the sense, very strong among hard-pressed urban professionals, that life is only bearable if we reward ourselves with endless “treats”. Yet we also feel guilty when we reward ourselves.

Where once people responded unconsciously to food cues, they now make conscious decisions not to respond, thereby feeling virtuous and deprived at the same time. And nobody can keep that up for long.

Should we be worried? Is the author right?

From personal experience, I've cut back the vast majority of my sugar intake - from as much as I could find, down to an occasional cookie or glass of lemonade. I strive for moderation, not perfection, so I don't feel guilty when I share a dessert or pour myself an after dinner drink..

That being said, I still walk by the Bucket-O-Red Vines at my office about 20 times a day. You know, the bucket that used to supply me with a couple handfuls of delicious licorice at a time. I'm happy to say I haven't reached for a single red vine since sometime back in February. But, I do hear the occasional call of the Siren, followed by a vision of eating the whole bucket at once!

Whatcha gonna do - I'm a recovering sugar-aholic.

-Chris Butterworth