Addiction to prescription medication is #1. Food addiction comes at #2 as discovered by Jane Velez-Mitchell, author of Addict Nation. Fat and sugar are considered to be self-prescribed therapeutic medications.
Ashley Gearhardt, Michael Roberts, and Marice Ashe wrote the article “If Sugar Is Addictive… What Does It Mean for the Law?” (found in the Journal of Law, Medicine, & Ethics) which included observations of sugar intake. The following is what they discovered:
Sugar, a presumed “naturally occurring food ingredient” has become a common food additive. This is a problem as it is found to be “capable of triggering addictive behaviors.” Sugar consumption has significantly increased within the last decade which has been attributed to incidences of chronic diseases (such as obesity and diabetes – often intertwined with each other) tripling in number.
The study was performed on rats (yeah for it not being a human study) where they were offered the choice of illicit substances (i.e. cocaine) or sugar. The rats chose sugar. When sugar was offered intermittently, they often binged, increased their intake progressively, and exhibited biological symptoms of withdrawal when sugar was no longer provided.
A classic sign of addiction is when a substance is sought after by pursuing a substance despite the introduction of electric shock. In this study, rats were found to seek sugar over an illicit substance (i.e. cocaine) despite the risk of being shocked.
Our human problem in the United States is that, as this article states, “food sustains life and reflects cultural values, while sugar is ubiquitous in the American food supply and is in many respects a cultural icon.” And thus the dilemma. Food with sugar? Or sugar with food.
Yeah for switching a 16oz Carmel Mocha for an 8 oz. bottle of Coke and Multigrain Cheerios instead of Froot Loops. Yeah for a random assortment of fruit in my refrigerator. I guess I’m making progress.