An astonishing study published in 2007 in the journal PLOS ONE surprised the food industry and people’s perspectives toward eating habits. The article, Intense Sweetness Surpasses Cocaine Reward documented that sugar was more addictive than cocaine in mice. This study led to several new studies seeking to verify or refute the results. Nevertheless, even today, there is mounting proof that sugar does indeed have addictive capabilities. So, let’s explore how it is possible to be addicted to sugar.

Researchers are not yet sure of the mechanisms behind sugar addiction. However, they have a couple of important clues as to why it is likely to happen. Some of them are mental, and others are physical.

Mental Addiction

One of the reasons for sugar addiction is that consuming sweet things releases the feel-good chemical dopamine. This chemical gives you a ‘buzz’ in mood, pain, and energy levels. This powerful chemical change in the brain leads to a yearning to continue the ‘pleasure’, which leads to more sugar consumption.

Research has shown that cravings deliver a feedback loop in the brain. The brain sees sugar as a reward and desires to get more. As it gets more sugar, it wants more of the reward associated with its taste.

As time goes on, this causes the brain to be reprogrammed and re-wired to the point of addiction and inadequate impulse control. Furthermore, this can significantly affect mood and brain chemistry. The changed brain chemistry could explain why a high-carb, high-sugar diet is strongly linked with Alzheimer’s disease.

Physical Addiction

We get introduced to sweet foods such as applesauce from the moment we are infants. We are also fed baby foods whose base includes starchy-sweet vegetables like carrots and fruit. The tongue, however, seems moderately primal and cannot handle the extreme sweetness of modern foods packed with sugar, sugar substitutes, and artificial sweeteners. The more the tongue gets, the more it desires. Your food cravings actually start in your mouth and not in the stomach.

Artificial Sweeteners

The sugar cravings in the brain are affected by artificial sweeteners as well. Artificial sweeteners have been used for many years under the belief they are better for us than sugar. However, studies have shown that they have a comparable impact on sugar cravings and affect blood sugar similarly.

Some artificial sweeteners are particularly unsafe because they change into toxic chemicals once they are digested. For example, an article about aspartame in the National Library of Medicine has concluded as follows:

These findings suggest impaired memory performance and increased brain oxidative stress by repeated aspartame administration. The impaired memory performance is likely to involve increased oxidative stress as well as decreased brain glucose availability.

Aspartame has also been found to create methanol poisoning and holes in the brain of laboratory animals.

Despite what the source is, sweet tastes seem to be very addictive. So, if you’ve been struggling to restrain your desire, you might have to cut all desserts and pre-packaged foods from what you eat.


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Jeff Moji

Hi there. I'm Jeff Moji, an engineer, information technologist, and health enthusiast. I have set up this website to explore the best ways to keep fit and healthy as I grow older during this pandemic-prone time. Please keep in touch so we can exchange information and spur one another on.

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