Home / Blog / Article


September 21 2015

Sugar and Soda--Addictive as Cocaine?

Julie Gunlock

I came across James Fell while checking the Sci Babe’s Facebook Page. She posts many of Fell’s articles and I can see why. He makes sense!

If you’re not familiar with Fell, check out his site Body For Wife (the story behind the blog’s name is so sweet—give it a read here). Fell offers common sense, humorous, and compassionate commentary on diet trends, working out, the struggle to stay healthy, and, for a twist on a health blog, guidance on how to be a decent person. I’m a fan.

Anyway, Fell just wrote this article for Ask Men where he takes on the now very popular alarmist myth that sugar, and everything that contains it, is an addictive substance. Regulators love this argument because it fits nicely into the “we need to protect Americans from this harmful substance” narrative that so often convinces people that regulations are good.

In his standard common sense style, Fell writes:

People aren’t knocking over convenience stores or fencing grandma’s jewelry in order to fund their cupcake habit. Sugar, or any food, does not meet the criteria for being called an addictive substance.

He’s right. Fell goes on to explain while it might be fun (and profitable for a certain doctor who has promoted this theory) to blame all the world’s problems on one substance (“obesity is caused by too much sugar” or “soda is the reason we’re all so fat!”), the real problem is that people simply overeat.

And now we have a brand new study out of the University of Edinburgh that puts another nail in the coffin of so-called sugar addiction, and supports the research for binge-eating disorder.

You can be addicted to eating, the study asserts, but not to food.

Professor Suzanne Dixon, the study coordinator, reported: “There is currently very little evidence to support the idea that any ingredient, food item, additive or combination of ingredients has addictive properties.” And quoting from the release: “The brain does not respond to nutrients in the same way as it does to addictive drugs such as heroin or cocaine.”

Overall, it’s far more important to focus on your relationship with eating than to any specific type of food.

...

The answer is: I tell you this because I don’t want you to despair. I want you to have hope that you can change your eating habits and resist the call of the cookie, the cupcake or the cheeseburger. Telling people sugar is more addictive than cocaine makes the situation seem hopeless, but there is hope. Lots of hope.

Losing weight is very difficult and giving people reasons to give up (“it’s not your fault—you’re addicted) is as loathsome as fat shaming. 

Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
Follow us