You may call yourself a sugar addict, or a chocoholic, or you may be familiar with the vision of undissolved sugar in the bottom of your triple-triple coffee. But is sugar really addictive? Researchers at Penn State University are studying just that. The logic is that some components in sweet foods, such as sugar and fat, may have similar addictive qualities to those of recognized addictive drugs.
In medical terms, a substance is addictive if it induces a state of pleasantness or relieves distress; leads to adaptive changes in the brain that trigger tolerance, physical dependence and uncontrollable cravings; and causes dependence to such an extent that abstaining is difficult. Sound like your feelings toward cookies, cake and doughnuts?
Researchers have shown that when humans and rats eat sweets, their brain levels of dopamine - a natural inducer of "happy" feelings and which is at the heart of many addictive behaviours - increases. They have also shown that rats deprived of food for 12 hours, and then given food and sugar-water tend to binge on the sugar-water drink, suggesting changes in rats' brain systems in response to sugar.
As of yet, there is no conclusive proof of sugar addiction in humans or in rats.
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.