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Why Sugar Addiction Is for Real

Experts and sufferers tell The Fix that sugar is a true substance of addiction.

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Is one white powder much like another?
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By Valerie Tejeda

08/24/12

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Is sugar addiction more serious than we realize? Terms like “chocoholic” and “sugar addict” get thrown around, and we sometimes hear of celebrities like the Spice Girls' Gerri Halliwell quitting the sweet stuff, or Nancy Pelosi's chocoholism. But more people than we think are true sugar addicts, according to Ann Hull. She's the founder and president of The Hull Institute—an eating disorder treatment center in Ohio. “I see a number of patients who are bulimics who crave sugar,” she tells The Fix. “I’ve never seen anyone who binges on broccoli! It’s always sugar and white flour, which metabolizes as sugar.” Due to growing awareness of the problem, she says, many rehabs are adopting sugar-free meal plans, hoping to stop another addiction from starting in recovery. “Some people cannot stop,” says Hull. “There are some people presenting themselves to weight loss clinics who have an addiction to sugar. They talk about this intense need for sugar, and binging secretly.” She adds, “Sugar is not a food group. You can chose to stop eating sugar, and if you can, you can chose to ask for help. I treat it like I would any other addiction.”

Mary Wilcox from Texas, battled sugar addiction as teen, but didn’t recognize it until she was an adult. “I was so addicted to sugar that it was all I thought about all day long,” she tells us. “I couldn’t go an hour without having something sweet; it just consumed me.” After seeing a therapist, she realized that her craving was more than just a sweet tooth, “Sugar made me feel a ‘high’ and I couldn’t make it through the day with out it,” she explains. “I haven’t had sugar for two years now, but I still crave it, and it’s hard because it’s everywhere.”

Sugar can be a temptation in different ways to other substances of addiction may not. “You can quit using drugs and you can quit alcohol but you are going to have to eat everyday so it’s difficult,” Hull points out. “Sugar addiction is a processed addiction, like sex addiction, so you have to learn how to do them normally. It can be difficult to follow a strict diet and not eat sugar when they're presented with it everyday. It’s difficult to treat.” While there still isn’t much research conducted into sugar addiction, Hull believes this will change: “My prediction is that in the next five to ten years, sugar addition will be a full-blown thing,” she says. “We may even see it in the DSM.”

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