Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sugar Addiction?

This topic came about due to a friend telling me how much she just loves sugar and feels like she has to eat it whenever it is around. I have never really been a sugar junkie. I have always craved things like french fries and popcorn and potato chips. Now I have met few cakes that I didn't like, but I have never planned an entire day's activities around being in the right part of town to get dessert (however, I have done that for french fries, and if you are ever near a Pommes Frites in New York, you will know what I am talking about.)

When I googled 'sugar addiction' I turned up a few anti-sugar blogs, a few advertisements telling me how to wean myself off sugar addiction, but very few articles regarding experiments or hard science or even industry findings. In fact even the Wikipedia article entitled 'Sugar Addiction' had a disclaimer saying that the article did not have enough contributors and that it was flawed in a couple ways. And Wikipedia is my go to for basic information!!

Well, from what I did find I have a feeling that sugar addiction exists, but no one has put any money into researching it. And why would they? The Government wouldn't think that was an appropriate use of taxpayer money. Plus they wouldn't want to turn up any information that would cause widespread panic. Because if you advertise that the food supply is unsafe, well that is anarchy territory and no matter what your political views no one wants that (even if they think they do). And the food processors certainly don't want that. They certainly don't want to admit that a food additive is causing addiction in their consumers. Right now the general consensus is that addiction to sugar and food is the fault of the addicted person, not the fault of the food, and no one who is selling food is going to change that. Can you imagine the lawsuits????

I did come up with a couple interesting bits of information on the topic though.

Addiction is classified as having three stages, a behavioral pattern of increased intake and brain chemistry changes, then signs of withdrawl and further changes in brain chemistry upon deprivation, and lastly signs of craving and relapse after withdrawl is over. Not enough research has been done to definitively prove the above with sugar.

What's more, Wikipedia states:

In 2008, Nicole Avena published data stating that sugar affects opioids and dopamine in the brain, and thus might be expected to have addictive potential. She references "Bingeing," "withdrawl," "craving" and "cross-sensitization" are each given operational definitions and demonstrated behaviorally with sugar bingeing as the reinforcer.... [She states] "Recent behavioral tests in rats further back the idea of an overlap between sweets and drugs. Drug addiction often includes three steps. A person will increase his intake of the drug, experience withdrawl symptoms when access to the drug is cut off and then face an urge to relapse back into drug use. Rats on sugar have similar experiences. Researchers withheld food for 12 hours and then gave rats food plus sugar water. This created a cycle of binging where the animals increased their daily sugar intake until it doubled. When researchers either stopped the diet or administered an opiod blocker the rats showed signs common to drug withdrawl, such as teeth-chattering and the shakes. Early findings also indicate signs of relapse."

That is just one study. I am sure there have been others. Rather than comb the Internet for more hidden studies of strung out rats, I will take my own experience. When I was pregnant, both times, my cravings for sugar were out of control. My strongest cravings were for pure sugar, like soda and jelly beans, not sugar with fat like ice cream or cake (though I had my share of that). I think that was because I would be full from a meal, but my body was still craving more calories. I could have spooned sugar from a bowl. The more I ate the more I wanted. Even after delivery, I had to keep myself on a low sugar diet so to manage my sugar cravings. Now I eat relatively low amounts of sugar and the cravings are gone. I worked to eliminate sugar from my diet a little at a time, switching to a whole grain cereal with no sugar at all, eliminating the honey from my berries and yogurt, and of course cutting back on dessert. I still eat a lot of fruit, but the fiber keeps the sugar from being digested so fast, so my blood sugar never spikes. But as with anything, I look at fruit in the cost/ benefit sense. You get so much nutrition from fruit with relatively few calories, even if there is sugar in there. The good stuff far outweighs the bad stuff!


Rubaum-Keller, Irene. Is Sugar Addictive? The Huffington Post. 18 June, 2009.

Sugar addiction. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 15 June, 2010.


  1. Thanks for bringing to light the association between sugar and drugs. In fact, there is such a similarity that sugar and cocaine read the same on a Pet Scan of the brain. Scary stuff!

  2. Thanks for this. I am (surprise, surprise) on a similar crusade. My first step has been to make all of the baked goods in my house, (except the relapse cookies) so that I know for a fact how much of what kind of sugar is in what we eat. It's empowering once you take control. Step 2... quit diet soda. Any suggestions??

  3. I have eliminated most of the sugar in my diet, the kids not so much. If I was home I would have more control. As far as the diet soda, I was really hooked on them for a while and I just slowly cut one back a week or every few days. I never had more than one or two on a weekday (none on weekends because I don't buy it for the house). But that is how I have cut them out. A little here and there and before you know it....they are gone!