13 Facts about Sugar Addiction

When I went to my University library to research about sugar addiction, I was shocked.

Flicking through the pages of many Psychology books, including those on Abnormal Psychology and Addictive Behaviour, I could not find anything on ‘sugar addiction’.

Why? Because for many years sugar was not considered as an addictive substance in the science of Psychology.

by Elia Strange

I came back to my office to have a look at the latest scientific research and found that in the last few years, researchers (who are mostly specialise in nutritional research) actually took a ‘sugar addiction’ seriously and started publishing research articles on this subject. I was thrilled!

So, after reading several of these articles, I am giving you the summary of their interesting findings – facts about sugar addiction or everything you need to know about sugar dependency.

* The numbers in brackets (e.g. (1)) are for your references. See them below the article.

'FACTS about Sugar Addiction':

Sugar is an addictive substance because it affects our neurological receptors in the brain(1,2,3) by producing opium-like effects(4)

2. Studies with rats show that sugar is highly addictive. They (the rats) experienced binging, withdrawal and cravings. The effects were similar to being addicted to amphetamine(1), alcohol(1) and nicotine(3)

3. When you are addicted to sugar, you might often prefer ‘something sweet’ to actual food (e.g. a dessert instead of lunch), even when you are hungry(2)

4. The prolonged sugar addiction can lead to obesity and type II diabetes. In other words, you might never achieve you ideal weight if you addicted to sugar(2)

5. When we are stressed, we often eat junk food. This ‘emotional eating’ is more prominent in overweight and obese individuals(5)

6. As with any addiction, with time you will need more and more of the sugary foods to eat (or drink) in order to satisfy your cravings. This may also lead to occasional binging(2)

7. Just like with any other addiction, the withdrawal effects (i.e. if you stop eating/drinking anything ‘sugary’) are not pleasant: You might experience shakes, tremors, teeth chattering, diarrhea, and you might feel colder than usual(2,3)

8. You may also experience: anxiety, low mood, and depression, when trying to stop your sugar dependency(3)

9. Even when you stopped eating sugar, the sugar dependency remains in the body for several weeks. Every time you see a fridge, a cupboard, a vending machine, ice cream parlor, and so on, they will act as ‘triggers’ to your sugar cravings. That is why it is so difficult to stop sugar dependency(2)

10. Heroin addicts experience sweet cravings if heroin is not available. This means that our central nervous system may be affected similarly - by heroin and sugar(2)

11. The combination of sugar and fat might be highly addictive (e.g. cookies, chocolate). Fatty foods are also addictive (e.g. cheese), but affect our neurological system in a different way(4)

12. Chocolate has several psychoactive substances (e.g. the biogenic stimulant amines caffeine, theobromine, tyramine and phenylethylamine), which may explain repeated chocolate cravings in some people. However, chocolate has also high amounts of sugar and fat, so it is debatable how much of sugar- and psychoactive drug- cravings we actually experience(5)

13. Chocolate stimulates several neurotransmitters in our brain – dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins. When they are stimulated we experience pleasure and positive mood(5)

As you can see from the 'Facts about Sugar Addiction', sugar is indeed, highly addictive. It seems that women are more likely to be addicted to sugar than men.

Whereas there are many books on Amazon that might help you to deal with your sugar addiction, the advice from most professionals, researchers and authors on this subject can often be summarised in several mini-statements.

If you are interested in these suggestions, then read the next article on How to stop your sugar addiction

'Facts about sugar addiction'


(1)Avena, N.M., Rada, P., & Hoebel, B.G. (2008). Evidence for sugar addiction: Behavioural and neurochemical effects of intermittent, excessive sugar intake. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 32 (1), 20-39.

(2)Wideman, C.H., Nadzam, G.R., & Murphy, H.M. (2005). Implications of an animal model of sugar addiction, withdrawal and relapse for human health. Nutritional Neuroscience, 8 (5/6), 269-276.

(3)Colantuoni, C., Rada, P., McCarthy, J., Patten, C., Avena, N.M., Chadeayne, A., & Hoebel, B.G. (2002). Evidence that intermittent, excessive sugar intake causes endogenous opioid dependence. Obesity Research, 10 (6), 478-488.

(4)Avena, N.M., Rada, P., & Hoebel, B.G. (2009). Sugar and fat bingeing have notabledifferences in addictive-like behaviour. The Journal of Nutrition, 139, 623-628.

(5)Parker, G., Parker, I., & Brotchie, H. (2006). Review: Mood states of chocolate. Journal of Affective Disorders, 92 (2-3), 149-159.

Other articles you might like:

How to stop your sugar addiction

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