Why is it that salt, sugar, and spices are so addictive that even the toughest fitness enthusiasts succumb to their cravings?
Sacks concentrate our favorite flavors (sweet, spicy, and salty) into unnaturally high amounts to deliver a sensory overload. An overwhelming dose gets addictive as the body quickly grows accustomed to it and develops a tolerance (1).
The large amount of sugar or spice in these foods are well beyond what humans have evolved to handle. When the stimulus is beyond what the body needs or is available in natural sources, it is called superstimulus. When your palate is overwhelmed with a large dose, it is stimulated far beyond what it is naturally used to (1).
In addition, most sweets lead to a spike in blood sugar levels due to unusually high levels of sugar. This results in the release of insulin (and a fall in blood sugar), which leads you to feel tired and sleepy, and craving more sugar (2).
When you eat a food that is high in natural protein and fat, it is unlikely you will feel hungry after a few hours. However, when you eat something that overwhelms your taste buds with intense flavor, addictive flavors like sugar, and with little nutrition, you’re not giving your body real food or nutrients. Instead, you’re giving it a simulation of food and, since your body isn’t getting enough nutrition, it will get hungry a few hours later. Snacks satisfy cravings not hunger, fooling the brain but not the body (3).
Snacks are extremely convenient and easily accessible. If you live near civilization you live near snacks. Just like any addictive substance, more the accessible it is, the harder it is to kick the habit. The problem is that they are everywhere; advertisements and the people around us serve as a constant reminder.