Sugar Addiction – Yes, It’s Real




The theories surrounding the issue of sugar addiction are still being debated by scientists, but there is a growing pile of evidence convincing nutritionists and doctors that sugar addiction is real. The most famous researcher in this field is probably Kathleen DesMaisons, Ph.D., author of a number of bestselling books on the subject, including Potatoes Not Prozac, Little Sugar Addicts: End the Mood Swings, Meltdowns, Tantrums, and Low Self-Esteem in Your Child Today, and Your Last Diet!: The Sugar Addict’s Weight-Loss Plan.

Simply by reading the titles of her books, you can see that over-consumption of sugar can affect both your weight and your state of mind. It was this last symptom of sugar addiction – it’s connection to chronic depression – that first alerted me to the dangers of sugar and other highly-refined carbohydrates.

I think the first book I ever read on the subject was called Sugar Blues, by William Dufty. Research continues to be done, and sugar has now been found to contribute to tooth decay, gum disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, and some auto-immune diseases. How can something as innocent-looking as sugar, something we’ve eaten since we were toddlers, do so much damage to the human body? And how can a common food substance become addictive?


If you have the time, be sure to watch this 89 minute video that explains some vitally important things about sugar and the American diet. I think this video is so important that I’m fitting it into the middle of this post – even though I know you may watch the video and never read the rest of my article.

But that’s OK, because what Dr. Lustig has to say if far more important – if you feel you’re addicted to sugar, if you have kids, if you’re worried about being overweight or getting diabetes, or if anyone in the family has heart disease, you need to watch this video. I admit that it isn’t a short YouTube entertainment flick, but it’s worth every minute of your attention, I promise. He explains, among other things:

  • Why sugar is the primary cause of obesity in both children and adults, and where we get most of the sugar in our diets.
  • The connection between sugar and high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, liver disease, insulin resistance, and more.
  • Why some calories make us fat, while other calories don’t – which also means that everything we’ve been told about dieting and losing weight is wrong.

The video is by Robert H. Lustig, MD, Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology and Director of the Weight Assessment for Teen and Child Health (WATCH) Program at UCSF.

Sugar: The Bitter Truth

And now, to the rest of my article. Be sure to chime in with your comments down below, and join the conversation.






A Short History of Sugar

Sugar has been around for a very long time, but it remained a luxury of the very rich for most of human history. Extracting the simple sugars from beets or other plants was a painstaking task, so only the nobility could afford it.

Then, several events happened at around the same time – the Industrialization of Europe began, which required lots of cheap labor; explorers discovered islands in the Caribbean that were ideally suited for growing sugar cane, a form of tropical grass; and the slave trade made the growing of sugar cane cheap.

In addition, machinery was invented that could take the syrup and refine it into the white powder we now all know as cane sugar. This new substance packed a powerful punch of calories in a very small package, and it was soon discovered that men, women and children working in factories could be kept working at their machines if they were occasionally given bread and jam and heavily sweetened tea, which they could eat right at their work stations.

The beginning of sugar addiction, and its accompanying health problems, began with the need for cheap labor in European factories. Almost as soon as sugar became a cheap commodity in the eighteenth century, doctors started to notice its ill effects on the human body. Current research is simply reinforcing the opinions of doctors who warned against sugar 200 years ago.

Why Sugar is Addictive

Sugar is a highly refined substance that does not appear alone in nature. It looks a lot like cocaine, and sugar acts a lot like heroin when it hits the brain. Although the idea that sugar was addictive was controversial among scientists for years, they began to take note when the paper titled Sugar and Fat Bingeing Have Notable Differences in Addictive-Like Behavior was published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2009.

The study showed that sugar affects the brain chemistry and thus might be expected to cause addictive behavior. In the study, written by Nicole Avena and others, it was shown that sugar bingeing can cause withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

The behavioral effects are similar to theĀ  neurochemical changes in the brain that also occur with addictive drugs. One finding of that study is seldom discussed — both sugar and the taste of sweet activate beta endorphin receptor sites in the brain, the same receptor sites that are activated by heroin and morphine.

The implications of this finding are that sugar substitutes, which have become a major industry in the United States and other nations, may not be the answer for people who want to lick their sugar addiction. Children who are given sweet candies and drinks made with sugar substitutes may still become sugar addicts when they grow up, and will find it just as difficult as the rest of us when it comes to giving up the sugar and other refined carbohydrates in their diet.

The bottom line – sugar is addictive, and it’s dangerous to one’s health. Because of its addictive qualities, it is very difficult to give up sugar, but the benefits in improved physical and emotional health make it worth the work.

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575 thoughts on “Sugar Addiction – Yes, It’s Real

  1. Brainstorm help here: What would be a label to call a diet that focuses on whole foods- that is, not eating sugar or refined processed foods? It could simply be whole foods diet, but I think there could be a term that seems “catchier”, if you know what I mean. Something that seems positive, holistic, happy, and more likely people would want to try it!

    sticky, catchy, idea words: holistic diet, whole foods diet,…

  2. xylitol is a fake sugar like aspertame which is no good for you either. Truvia is a sugar substitute from a plant that won’t make you start craving sugar again. It’s what I use in moderation (key word) especially in the 100% caoco which is EXTREMELY bitter.

  3. Thank you for the article and the link….I have 40 days with no sugar, wheat, or flour and I feel great. I am using the support of a 12 step program and now have the energy to exercise, which I never did before. I base my sucess on surrendering, planning, getting daily support and connection with other food addicts, and taking time for myself each day.

    Good luck!

  4. I love that video – thank you for putting it up for us. It inspired me to finally stop eating sugar. I just cut out sugar, juice and corn syrup a couple days ago and not only have I lost 2 lbs, but my food cravings are much healthier. I hope this lasts! Good luck to everyone out there trying to quit sugar!

  5. Just stopping by to say hi. It was one year ago today that I found this site and after reading everyone’s post realized I was a sugar addict and had been all of my life. I started that day with quitting sugar immediately. I then added white flour, breads, pasta and diet soft drinks to the banned list. I started with walking briskly for 2 miles a day and my hubby joined me. As we lost weight and started sleeping better, we had more energy and invested in bikes. We now ride 5 times a week for 15 miles at a time. As of today, I have lost 27 pounds and he has lost 35. I am cooking most of our foods, but if we buy anything processed it can have no more than 3 g of sugar. I hope everyone else is doing well. This is a slow life journey for me and I am glad that I didn’t do any fad diet but instead restructured my nutrition. At one point I had plateaued and I do a food log at diet diary site and some people pointed out that I was not eating enough calories and my body was starting to store fat as if in the starvation mode. Once I upped my calories to 2100, the weight loss resumed. So thanks for being here when I needed so desperately to find you and I hope you continue to encourage others about the problems with a sugar filled diet. Happy New Year!

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