Sugar foods and “addiction”

The Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies, was reported as stating to a committee of MPs that she “believes” we will find sugar addictive.

This is the first premise of her suggestion for a tax. However, as a medical finding, the evidence has not yet been established that sugar is addictive in the same way as, for example, alcohol and drugs.

The debate on the concept of “addictive” is a wide ranging one. Sugar naturally occurs within, as well as being used as an ingredient in, 1000s of foodstuffs.
Any number of things and activities may be proved to have a psychoactive response on the brain and become “addictive” in a psychological sense.

"In an insightful article, Rogers and Smit demonstrate  that overeaters invoke addiction as a way to dodge personal responsibility for consuming highly palatable, energy dense foods such as chocolate in quantities far beyond their needs... Attributing what is perceived as excessive consumption of chocolate, or the use of chocolate as a mood modifier, to an addiction provides a more socially (and personally) acceptable explanation for this behavior, and thereby helps to remove individual responsibility for the difficulty. On the basis of the publicly accepted model of addictions, it implies that eating chocolate is outside the person’s control …" (P.J. Rogers & H.J. Smit, Food Craving and Food “Addiction”: A Critical Review of the Evidence From a Biopsychosocial Perspective as referred to in Volume 61 of The Food and Law Journal).

It is important that consumers do not use this attack on so-called ”unhealthy” foods to abrogate their personal responsibilities and choices as the ultimate consumer. In America, for example, the obesity litigation against McDonalds failed to adequately establish the addictiveness of fast food and was dismissed due to no definitive causative link being established.

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