How Does Your Brain Become Addicted to Sugar?

addicted to sugar

Sugar tastes good. It’s not hard to get addicted to sugar. But it has a pretty bitter reputation for something so sweet. And as it turns out, the truth is even worse.

How We Get Hooked

We don’t have to go into the health effects of sugar, the problems it causes in obesity, insulin resistance, and diabetes. Because the bigger problem is the addiction. Without that, we could manage our sugar intake rationally instead of addictively.

Our brains are wired to respond to sugar. And the more sugar we feed them, the stronger the wiring. The feel good chemicals in our brains, the opiates and dopamine, respond to the sugar. And we get a little lift from them. And we like it.

But the brain has its own feedback loops. It starts to produce less of the chemicals we want. Eventually, like any addict, we’re not so much getting a rush as we are feeling the relief of a craving satisfied.

And make no mistake – at that point, we are addicted to sugar. At least, we’re addicted to the brain chemicals the sugar triggers. It’s a physical addiction. And science has the rats to prove it.

The Research

You may have heard of the study that tested rats with cocaine and Oreos. The rats preferred the Oreos. And they also ate the filling first.

Other studies have made similar findings. In fact, French researchers have found that the effects of sugar on the brain’s reward center are even stronger than those of cocaine.

What We Can Do

One thing we can do is be aware of where the craving is coming from. It’s not the cookies in your pantry calling you, it’s your brain chemistry. And we can reduce the amount of sugar we eat. We really can.


Sugar seems so harmless. Addicted to sugar? To that happy little cupcake? But research is finally showing us what that little cupcake can really do. And it’s not nice.

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