Is Sugar Really Addictive?
You may have heard rumours that sugar is as addictive to humans as cocaine and heroine. It is something that has caught my attention recently, so I did a little research in the area and I found little to support this concept. Marc Tucci et al looked at co-sensitivity to the incentive properties of palatable food and cocaine in rats…in other words whether rats loved Oreo cookies as much as cocaine.
Their findings showed that there was a relationship between incentive learning promoted by the sugary biscuits and by cocaine. It was hypothesised that individuals with a tendency towards addictive behaviour would be more vulnerable to developing a craving for the item – whether it be sugar or cocaine.
Interestingly, this study from November 2014 looked at addiction in terms of being a behavioural addiction, rather than addiction to a specific food. Once again, it is highlighted that individuals who are vulnerable to addictive behaviour are more likely to find themselves needing to eat.
“Food addiction” has become a focus of interest for researchers attempting to explain certain processes and/or behaviors that may contribute to the development of obesity. It is important to critically reflect on the appropriateness of the term “food addiction”, which combines the concepts of “substance-based” and behavioral addiction.
We stress that similar to other behaviors eating can become an addiction in thus predisposed individuals under specific environmental circumstances.
We conclude that “food addiction” is a misnomer because of the ambiguous connotation of a substance-related phenomenon. We instead propose the term “eating addiction” to underscore the behavioral addiction to eating.
But what about that viral image of the brain on sugar vs the brain on cocaine? Yes, I was also concerned when I saw that – but the fact is, those pleasure receptors light up for lots of reasons! Sugar and cocaine just happen to be two.
The Good News?
Knowing that sugar is probably not addictive to humans will hopefully empower you to take charge of your sugar preference (assuming you have one). The typical Western diet is packed with more sugar than we realise and cutting back is useful to help lose weight and reduce the likelihood of developing diabetes. If you happen to be one of those ‘addictive’ types, who struggles to control urges to eat sweet snacks, here are some great tips to help you seize control!
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