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Sugar Addiction – Why Sugar Addiction Matters, and What You Can Do to Stop Sugar Cravings

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 theย  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.


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

  1. Hi all,

    today is 30 days without sugar and white flour. I feel good and I have lost the cravings for the bad stuff. I went to my daughter’s house for Christmas and the bad stuff was everywhere and I am proud to say I didn’t touch it! it was such an adrenaline rush to be strong and abstain from it! I am weighing for the first time tomorrow. wish me luck! let you know the results later.

    signed hoping for big results.

  2. Hi all,
    I weighed today after 30 days without sugar and white flour. I am proud to say I lost 22lbs.! I feel great and am looking forward to a new future.

    see you all soon,
    new life around the corner.

  3. I truly am amazed that there are so many people like me! I really thought I was the only one with a sugar addiction. I was supposed to start my sugar free diet today, but I just whipped up cookies. Yes, I have been eating them while reading these posts. I hate this! Usually once I get past the 4th day with no sugar, my cravings are almost gone. It’s getting there that’s so difficult though. Congrats to Angel Cake! You are an inspiration! Congrats to all who have kicked the habit. To those who have not, lets fight together!

  4. I’ve just started reading a book The Four Hour Body and he has some interesting information. I’ve started on his diet and am feeling much better but I have to admit, I have incredible sugar, bread and chocolate cravings. I’ve fallen prey to this addiction since starting the diet. From his book I’ve learned this is the major cause of the gout I suffer from and I’m willing to take the chance that this will help me. I’m struggling but since losing about 5 lbs in about two weeks, I see the light. I had a dream this morning that I was slim and that I was in command of my life. This I take as a sign that it is possible to get through this and I’ll see it through in stages. All I know is that anytime I fall for sugar I immediately crave it again. Tonight I swear off sugar. I owe this to myself and my future.

    Good luck with your battle!

  5. to Jenniferzwize and cg,

    you can do it! do it for your future. do it for your family and children. I personally want to be there for my little grandson. he loves for me to play with him. it is so much easier for me to keep up with him when I am thinner. So hang in there. the first few days are hard because your body is detoxing. but, around the 4th to 5th day you start to feel like a million bucks! so much more energy! it is worth the pain to gain your life back. I am praying for you all!

    signed life in the thin lane :0)

  6. I am a sugar addict.. after reading some of these posts I am going to kick the sugar! I have suffered from depression on and off for the past 10 years, and sugar/carbs were always my comfort. I’ve been on anti depressants for about a year, and I want to get off them, and I think the best way is to get my diet under control and cut sugar out of my life! I never realized how many ppl were sugar addicts and I’ve been inspired to tough out the withdrawal symptoms of no sugar and get better! Thanks everyone!

  7. dear LG

    you can do it! it is such a free feeling. to have control of you own mind and body. you will feel great and your weight will be under control. really it isn’t about weight it is about getting healthy and feeling good. a lot of us who crave sugar are probably allergic to it. you may be also. I am proud of you that you made the decision to take back your life!

    life is great when it is sugar free!

  8. I’ve just found this website for the first time as I was googling “addiction to sugar”. I’ve always known I was addicted to sugar, but felt it was more emotional than physical. However, after decades of binging, endless diets, and now realizing that my many physical problems could very well be associated with inflammation caused by too much sugar, I’m finally willing to admit that things have to change. But I AM SCARED. I have always aimed for “moderation in all things”, but haven’t been able to accomplish this with sugar. I’m willing to admit that I need to give up refined sugar and white flour foods. But I’d really like to know what the rest of you think of other sugars, such as AGAVE syrup, etc. Is it possible to enjoy a treat made with something like that once in awhile? Or does it need to be ALL sugars, cold turkey? I’d really appreciate as much feedback as possible. I personally don’t know anyone who has given up sugar successfully. I need some hope. Thanks.

    • I would suggest going “cold turkey” for now. The natural sugars have more nutrition, but they might trigger the same old cravings. I’ve read that artificial sweeteners can cause the same kinds of physical problems that real sugar does, and can even be more dangerous than real sugar. So, I would suggest just forget about desserts and breads for a while, and try to concentrate on eating good, natural foods.

    • Honestly I won’t don’t it all at once.
      I am a vegetarian and I know that if quitting the habit quickly, cravings come and later the “sin” (just in case, I’m not a Christian).
      I cheated a couple of times. I just couldn’t help myself.
      Would have I done it any differently? No.
      Since, I change my eating habits for ethics I had to do it as fast as possible; but still it took me like five months to not break my vegetarianism even if I was drooling at the sight of roasted chicken.

      I’m lowering my in-takes of sugar.
      I put half a glass with water (and lots of ice) and the other half with juice (or whatever I’m drinking) that way I don’t drink as much… ๐Ÿ˜€
      Have you watched Super Size me? Though, it’s a documentary mainly about McDonald’s it makes some good points about Coke and sugar in it.
      I see this is a year old. How is it going?

  9. ivory girl,

    I have been without sugar for 30 days. it was hard at first but, when I stepped on the scale after that 30 days it was well worth it. I lost 22lbs! my swelling in my legs went down and my joints don’t hurt as bad. it also makes you feel good and gives you more energy. I agree with Jonnie that you need to give up all sugars but, I do use Splenda it doesn’t both me. I need it in my coffee.

    good luck
    signed life is good

  10. Thanks for your responses. I’ve decided to go off of all sugar for two weeks, and see how I feel. Then I may try making something with agave and see if it makes a difference or not. I am nervous, but today was day one and I’m alive. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for your support!

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