Is sugar addictive?

Is sugar addictive? A growing body of research suggests that it is.

Is sugar addictive?It’s a white powder that makes you feel great for a while until you crash. You crave it, and after eating some you usually want just a little more. You know it’s bad for you, and you can stop any time. Really, you can.

I’m as guilty as anyone of having a bit of a sugar habit, and I can say from experience that the more refined sugar I eat on a daily basis, the more I crave it.

We’ve talked about the hazards of sugar in this space before and shared professor Robert Lustig’s complete lecture on the topic. We’ve also talked a little bit about how a diet high in sugar can actually alter your brain chemistry and cause you to overeat.

How Sugar Affects Your Brain

Is sugar addictive? The science seems to point to that possibility.

A more recent study tried to parse whether it’s the sugar or the fat that makes us crave decadent treats, and sugar blew fat out of the water. In the study, Dr. Eric Stice and his team compared how high fat and high sugar treats affected the brain. Their findings underscore sugar’s addictive nature. Sugar works on the same area of the brain as addictive drugs like alcohol that make you crave more the more you consume.

That explains why eating one cookie often turns into eating two cookies. Or maybe finishing off that box.

A 2013 study also purported that Oreos were as addictive as cocaine, but there’s some question about whether the study’s setup really proved that point. What the study definitely proves, though, is that sugary Oreos stimulate the pleasure centers of the brain, the way that drugs do.

I recently ran across an interesting TED-Ed video that illustrates how sugar works on your brain:

So, maybe sugar ought to be relegated to your skincare regimen more often than it’s on your plate. I’m definitely going to stop. Right after I have this one cookie…

Image Credit: Sugar photo via Shutterstock

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1 thought on “Is sugar addictive?”

  1. You should read some of the papers by Dr. Richard Johnson. He’s done a fair bit of research on the subject, and especially how fructose raises uric acid levels in the body:

    I’m not generally into low-carb or Dr. Mercola, but I do like Dr. Johnson. The thing is, by his research, “carbs” in general aren’t bad, and fructose is treated differently if paired with Vit C. So I switched to using dextrose or xylitol for my “sweet” … and that gets around the addictive and fat-producing parts of “sweet”. There are lots of types of “sugar” and not all of them are problematic. I love it when science lets me eat guilt-free brownies!

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