Imagine cakes, pizza and chocolates on the index in 2020; You could only buy foods with a high fat and sugar content from the dealer around the corner, you would have to secretly eat certain finished products and would then be considered an addict.
Sounds pretty absurd? That's true, and yet there is currently heated debate in science as to whether there really is such a thing as a "food addiction". And whether this can be seen as a driver for the rising overweight rates worldwide - and finally it would be possible to logically explain why some people find it so extremely difficult to get rid of excess pounds.
This is behind the so-called "Food Addiction"
Some scientists suggest that food addiction could be a psychiatric illness. After all, overweight people in particular report a strong craving for food, in the technical jargon "craving", which goes far beyond a mere "wanting something". Affected people lose control and eat a whole family carton of ice cream or a bag of chips, even though they know it's not healthy.
And because this behavior is most common with highly processed foods, experts believe it is an addiction tied to a specific substance. The loudest proponent of this thesis is Robert Lustig, a pediatrician from California. Sugar is the "child's alcohol", he wrote again recently in a comment for the US broadcaster "CBS News". Above all, he considers fructose, which also makes up half of household sugar, to be poison. "Like alcohol, fructose is metabolized in the liver and stored in excess as fat," says Lustig. And fatty liver is the driver for pretty much every modern common ailment, from diabetes to heart disease.
On top of that, sugar is downright addictive, after all, it is absorbed by the intestine into the blood in a flash and drives the blood sugar level up. Since this then drops sharply, hunger pangs quickly arise again after over-sweet meals. Lustig therefore puts sugar on a par with cocaine, cigarettes and alcohol and demands that this must be as well as drugs regulated - a challenge to the sugar industry.
Other scientists consider Lustig's theses to be exaggerated. Dr. Thomas Ellrott, nutritionist at the University of Göttingen, says: "There are hardly any studies that clearly define which foods are potentially addictive." In various animal experiments, however, sugary foods in particular turned out to be a kind of drug: the brain of rats changes with a diet rich in sugar and thus resembles that of addicts. If the animals then receive unsweetened food, withdrawal symptoms such as fear, chattering of teeth or aggression occur.
Sugar can hardly be left out
In addition, researchers have found that the upper room of overweight people reacts particularly strongly to energy supplies by releasing happiness hormones. "In humans, however, other addiction characteristics are missing: There are no clear withdrawal symptoms, no habituation and dose increase," says Prof. Dr. Martina de Zwaan, psychosomatic specialist and Vice President of the German Obesity Society.
"In addition, unlike other drugs, it is difficult to omit sugar." Sure, it is found naturally as glucose, fructose or starch in all kinds of foods such as fruits and grains. But it also occurs in many industrially manufactured products such as cereals, ready meals, sauces, yoghurts or even sausages.
The "food addiction" is more like a behavioral addiction
Many experts see it that way, including the psychosomatic specialist Martina de Zwaan: "There are people who have a problem with eating, they suffer from binge eating, and they eat a lot of food in a short time - regardless of whether it is crisps or bread . " In order to track down the phenomenon of "addictive behavior", a catalog of psychological questions, the "Yale Food Addiction Scale", was developed.
Nutritionist Ellrott recently used this to determine that five percent of normal and overweight people were diagnosed with addiction, compared with 17 percent of obese people. "However, that is not enough to explain the obesity epidemic," says Thomas Ellrott.
Martina de Zwaan also takes a critical view of the term: "Even if we described this pathological eating behavior as 'addiction', nothing would change in the treatment. "
What is certain is that many factors contribute to obesity
Genes, lack of exercise, stress ... The wide range of cheap, tasty foods still causes additional damage to sensitive people. Consumer advocates in particular have been calling for industry to be made more accountable for years. Until then, US pediatrician Robert Lustig warns: "Reduce sweets, cereals, soft drinks and fruit juices."