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Is Sugar Addictive?

When there's a pile of holiday sweets in your office kitchen, it can sometimes feel like sugar is coaxing you to come to it. Now a Princeton University scientist suggests that siren's call may not be your imagination. According to new research released this week, sugar may wield addictive powers similar to those of drugs.

The studies so far have only been conducted on lab rats, but the results are pretty eye-opening. Over several years, Professor Bart Hoebel and other department of psychology researchers have observed in rats patterns of increased sugar intake, withdrawal, and relapse — all typical characteristics of addition. Rats who were deprived of sugar for periods of time seemed even more anxious to consume it when it was reintroduced. Says Hoebel, "In this case, abstinence makes the heart grow fonder." Here's more:

Hoebel has shown that rats eating large amounts of sugar when hungry, a phenomenon he describes as sugar-binging, undergo neurochemical changes in the brain that appear to mimic those produced by substances of abuse, including cocaine, morphine and nicotine. Sugar induces behavioral changes, too. "In certain models, sugar-binging causes long-lasting effects in the brain and increases the inclination to take other drugs of abuse, such as alcohol," Hoebel said.

Wow, that's pretty shocking stuff, don't you think? Hoebel hopes his research could someday help treat eating disorders, but already it makes me think differently about the way we consume sugar. I have often noticed that the more sugar I eat, the more I crave it; how about you?


Join The Conversation
harajuku-poser harajuku-poser 8 years
i don't think it's an addiction; it's just the body's natural response to sugar. We eat sugar (e.g. candy bars, ice cream), blood sugar levels rise, pancreas secrete insulin to get the blood sugar level back to normal, resulting in wanting more sugar, or that slow mid-afternoon sluggish feeling. so we eat more and more sugar just to maintain the same level of blood sugar, cos it just feels so good to be high.
La-Heidi La-Heidi 8 years
looooooooooool i actually thought that this is a yes or no question about popsugar. and i was planning to say hell ya im addicted to it though i wondered once i saw the headline why it was placed in the fitsugar section. hahaha. silly me
NatashaAlexis NatashaAlexis 8 years
I'm surprised no one caught it. " Rats who were deprived of sugar for periods of time seemed even more anxious to consume it when it was reintroduced." and "sugar-binging causes long-lasting effects in the brain and increases the inclination to take other drugs of abuse, such as alcohol" It isn't shocking that if one is deprived of sugar it may lead them to drink alcohol, since alcohol it's self IS A SUGAR. Perhaps they should have used another drug as a example? Great case study, thank you for posting it
Lo-Lo291303 Lo-Lo291303 8 years
I am in every sense of the word, addicted to sugar.
Spectra Spectra 8 years
Makes sense to me...when I stopped eating a ton of sugary junk, I stopped craving it so much. I guess that's part of why the low carb thing works for some people...if you really love sugar, giving it up could cause you to lose your desire for it. I personally don't eat a lot of refined sugar and it's really easy for me to turn down sugary desserts/cakes/cookies/candy. They just don't really appeal to me anymore.
aimeeb aimeeb 8 years
I rarely have sugar cravings unless it's that time of the month.
urban-chic-101 urban-chic-101 8 years
I have been saying and thinking this for years. My addiction to pepsi is a clear example of this. Whenever I have tried to quit it is very hard... I wish they had sugar patch for sugar addicts... that would be awesome!
stacey042 stacey042 8 years
Yeah, I've noticed that too. If I go long periods of time without eating sugar, then I think it actually lessens my cravings for sugar. At first, it's hard, but then it gets easier. However, if I happen to eat something sugary after that long period of time, sometimes I can't stop myself! I just want sugar! So maybe it does have a real addictive element to it (there's even a "withdrawal" period that can be hard). So should we try to avoid eating foods high in sugar altogether?
gabiushka gabiushka 8 years
I thought we already knew this (at least I did), since we are always referring to the high and then crash on sugar.
GlowingMoon GlowingMoon 8 years
"I have often noticed that the more sugar I eat, the more I crave it; how about you?" Personally, yes, sugar has the same effect on me. For me, I think there's a genetic component involved. Obesity runs in my family (as I said before). Like my family members, I have an enormous capacity to overeat, and certain foods (like sugar) can trigger that huge (uncontrollable) appetite. This is something I know about myself, and I'm careful about avoiding certain "trigger" foods. As I said before, I'm fit and lean. My physical condition is something I deliberately maintain. It's not what comes natural for me, and I'm certainly not blessed with good genes. In fact, it's quite the opposite -- I have unhealthy genes, and I'm careful not to trigger them.
tlsgirl tlsgirl 8 years
Hmm, so it's addictive if you eat it, but if you don't, you'll just want it more if you allow yourself to have some again? That kinda seems like damned if you do, and damned if you don't. I'm more of a salt craver in general, but I have noticed that if I eat a bunch of sugar I just want more the next day...
ilanac13 ilanac13 8 years
i think that what you're saying - about how if you eat a lot of sugar that you want more - it's kind of like that with a lot of foods. like with bread or pasta - if you have it in moderation and then have a little 'binge' for lack of a better word - you find yourself craving it more and more. it's like your body wants it more since it knows that it's not going to get it at the same amount as right now forever. i think that there could be something here - but i just don't know if i totally go all the way towards agreeing with the study. i think that the results here are 'leading' but they aren't necessarily enough to change your habits etc.
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