IS SUGAR CONSIDERED TO BE MORE DANGEROUS THAN DRUGS?
Like it or lump it, only a handful of us can get through the day without including any sort of refined sugar in our daily diet. Us Brits consume around 240 teaspoons of sugar each week, sometimes without any recollection. We are a population who is attracted to custard creams, chocolate digestives and multiple cups of tea, like bees are attracted to honey. Some could say we are addicted to sugar. Some could say sugar is a drug. Some could still be in denial. Perhaps you, while reading this, are reaching for a chocolate digestive with your cup of tea with three sugars?
Drugs can intoxicate us, they can charge us with energy and can be swallowed. They do not have to be snorted, smoked or even injected for us to experience their noble and soothing effects. Imagine they mix well with the majority of food and liquids, when given to children they will provoke a feeling of pleasure so intense and profound that drugs will become a driving force throughout their lives. These all have the same effects of over indulgence of sugar.
Could the taste of the sugar grains on the tongue be intoxicating? Can sugar itself be an intoxicant? Overconsuming this “drug” may have long term effects, but in the short term none of these appear- no dizziness, no passing out or even slurred speech. It seems our desire to devour sugar is addictive as French scientists in Bordeaux reported that rats chose sugar over cocaine in an animal trial, when they were addicted to cocaine.
There is something about childhood that reminds us of the experience of sugar and sweet consumption. Trick or Treating on Halloween, with a tablecloth thrown over you claiming to be a ghost. Being praised for finishing a simple task at school and given a sweet to show that you were a “good” child. How patronising?
Walking into my local community centre which clearly needs to be renovated, strolling into a room with a sign saying “Weight Watchers meeting.” Sitting in this Weight Watchers meeting, which is full of people in the same boat, who are adamant to lose weight. There is a sense of hope and prosperity in the room when comparing to the outside of the building. The majority of members spoke about sugary foods being their comfort food such as “cakes, chocolate and fizzy drinks”. I caught up with part time retail assistant after the meeting, when speaking to Anum Sarwar, 19, who has been a member at Weightwatchers for 6 months, she says “sugar is my demon, I can diet and exercise, but sugar is my go to. That is my downfall” but Weightwatchers “is helping, as it’s all about sharing knowledge and having fun together, yes sugar is bad but I would defiantly not call it a drug.”
I politely asked her if she has always had problems with her weight, “Yes, it is a rollercoaster of emotions and I personally blame it on my inability to get rid of sugar from my diet” said a distraught Anum. She goes on to speak about how hard it is to lose weight; “I go to the gym three times a week, I’m pretty good during the day, but it is just after during my breaks at work, the vending machine is my best friend in the establishment” she says whilst laughing.
Ben Foulis, 25, a Personal Trainer in Canary Wharf, who graduated in Sports Science at Bournemouth University before moving to London to start his career in personal training, also believes sugar is not a drug, he says “I wouldn’t say I see it as a ‘drug’, because the social stigma and connotations of labelling something a drug suggests to me that for your average, perfectly healthy human being, it is not needed. In most circumstances sugar is needed to enhance performance. I for one would not like to train without any sugar or caffeine within my system. But I would agree that sugar is incredibly addictive! That’s why intake must be monitored.”
Foulis thinks it is hard to ban sugar from our daily calorie intakes, he said “at first it is extremely difficult, but I would recommend immediately switching to low sugar/reduced sugar alternatives. All companies nowadays promote these types of products. But do beware, with a lot of products, if they’re still incredibly sweet then you’ve got to question what these removed sugars have been replaced with?”
Ben also believes sugar has a huge impact on our bodies as “it all comes down to glucose, sugar can be a great source of fuel for the body if you are about to embark on an intense training session. Like with all sugar though, if the fuel source does not get burned off it can soon be stored and converted into body fat.”
But on the other hand BA Sports Science student Rahib Hoque strongly agrees that sugar is a drug, he says “sugar is a drug due to that fact that it causes addiction. Even though sugar is not technically a drug, drugs cause addiction which sugar does. When people become addicted to sugary substances, it takes a hold of them, causing more urges to eat than to do other things which in turn would make them healthier.”
Hoque also agrees with the sugar tax fronted by television chef and presenter Jamie Oliver,41, which is in place to tackle child obesity as “sugar is an easy obtainable drug and children are immune to the idea of the danger that comes with the overindulgence of sweets and sugar, which will lead to many health implications in the future” said a worried Rahib.
I asked Rahib if he categorised sugar in the same boat as cigarettes and drugs, he replied eagerly saying “of course, it is 10 times harder to come off sugar because your body is so used it.” I asked what changes should occur to prevent childhood obesity, he said “just like smoking labels and fizzy drinks, these products should come with a warning that sugar is extremely bad for your health and is extremely addictive.”
Georgia Goddard,20, is an aspiring basketball player and athlete, who has battled with her addiction to sugar as well as her weight ever since she was a child. She is aware of all the health implications hence her decision to become a basketball player. She says “sugar is still a huge part of my life, but I am learning to keep my sugar intake low.”
Georgia had a health scare at the age of 16, where her doctor warned her if she did not cut down on sugar she would have a high chance of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. “That’s where my life changed, I knew I had change my lifestyle to become a basketball player, otherwise being the height I am would be useless” says a 6’4 tall Georgia whilst smirking.
When asking Georgia if sugar is a drug she agreed saying “if I was told sugar was so addictive and if my parents knew how bad sugar was, I would have never intended to eat so much of it, it is pure poison, I always try to avoid refined sugar in my foods and I try to only stick with drinking water, because evidently that is the healthiest option.”
Research also shows 6.3 million people have been diagnosed with diabetes in the UK. 24 per cent are children who have been diagnosed with diabetes in the UK. After conducting an anonymous questionnaire, it was evident that 58 per cent of parents are “afraid of their children gaining health implications due to sweets and sugar.” One father mentioned that “it is easier to not argue” with his child so he just hands him a treat to keep him quiet, but there are a hundred different alternatives that can be given to children instead of fizzy drinks and unhealthy snacks because why do you give your plants water when you are giving your children unhealthy drinks that are crammed with sugar and impurities?
Ultimately, the 100-million-dollar question is how much is too much? But each to their own, just as adults decide how much caffeine they desire, how many cigarettes they want to smoke and how much alcohol they want to ingest. Sugar should be looked at the same way. It is all personal preference. The immense amount of research suggests that refined sugar is a no go and it is addictive, but professionals suggest cutting it out is not easy, but it is a healthier alternative which can prevent health implications in the future.
If you are trying to banish sugar from your diet and are finding it impossible, here is some advice from personal trainer Ben Foulis:
· Switch to low sugar or low fat alternatives.
· Switch to 70%+ dark chocolate as it is more bitter than milk chocolate, so therefore you would not be able to eat as much and it has greatly less sugar.
· Read the labels of EVERY single item of food you picked up at the supermarket.
· Try avoiding refined sugars and use natural sugars in fruits instead.