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Sugar is not addictive

Every time you talk to someone about food, you will usually hear these words: Sugar is addictive.

To those people, sugar is their white nemesis, or more precisely, their great craving or addiction.

Addiction, as explained by the American Society of Addiction Medicine, is a "primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry."

It's characterized by an inability to consistently abstain (from the object of addiction); impairment in behavioral control; craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one's behaviour and interpersonal relationships; and a dysfunctional emotional response.

Cycles of relapse and remission are common, and, without treatment, addiction is progressive and can lead to disability.

It is a real complex disorder that great part of our society has it for sugar, and if you check the food you are eating a lot of it has sugar. But as most of our nutritionists points out, sudden cessation from a truly addictive drug would often cause a storm of repercussions like anxiety, nausea, hot and cold flashes, diarrhea, and insomnia, along with a bunch of other more obscure but terrible sounding side effects like tachycardia, dysphoria, myalgia, etc.

People who are denied any candy and a like don't experience those things. Instead, at worst, they get a bit peevish.

People say that eating sugar lights up neural reward pathways, just like it does with drugs. Sure, but these same pathways also light up from other activities, like working out.

However, it's the act of doing those things that lights up your brain circuitry. If something has addictive qualities, it implies that it has some intrinsic property that makes susceptible people fall in psychological but mostly chemical love with it. Sugar has no such intrinsic properties.

Further, don't mistake ordinary cravings for true addiction. If you wish for something sweet or fatty, you're merely responding to your genetic blueprint.

Food in general was hard to come by in pre-agricultural societies, so we were programmed to scarf up stuff that was high in calories and easily absorbable, like fat and sugars. But our genetic programming doesn't match the current landscape. We don't need it, even though the cravings still remain.

So if you love a particular food, or love it because of its sugary sweetness, it's not because you're addicted to it; it's because it lights up the reward centre in your brain that's leftover from your cave-dwelling days.

Yes, sugar is a big problem. It's a leading contributor to obesity. It can lead to diabetes, and heart and liver diseases, but if you can't stop yourself from eating it, you can just ask us for help, Personal Trainers will be here for you, know how.

Marcelo Feijão text