Sugar Addictive?

I keep seeing ever more articles from people like Dr. Schopick who know that indeed sugar is addictive for many people. Always worth theread.

Do you have a sugar addiction?

By Dr. David Schopick

Many of us have a sweet tooth and enjoy a nice dessert or indulging in the occasional candy bar. There is nothing wrong with a treat now and then, but for some, eating sugary foods is a true addiction, and one that can lead to an assortment of health issues. Let’s talk about how to tell if you have a sugar addiction, and how to best treat it.

How do I tell if I have a sugar addiction? Those with a sugar addiction find that they have a serious craving for sugar throughout the day. They may start the morning with a sweet pastry, coffee drink or sweet cereal, then find that by mid-morning they need a soft drink or another sweet snack, and that this pattern repeats throughout the day. In fact, the more sugary foods they eat or drink, the more they need to eat to maintain that sugar “high.” And, as the addiction progresses, they not only need to eat more, they need to eat even sweeter foods to get their “fix.” If they do not eat these foods, they may feel sluggish, grumpy and out of sorts.

Why do we crave sugary foods? To some extent, we are born preferring sweet foods. According to the American Dietetic Association, humans prefer sweet tastes from birth. Sugar also stimulates the same parts of the brain as hard core drugs such as heroin and cocaine. It temporarily provides a “feel good” high, and a burst of energy, but as time goes by, more sugar is needed to produce the same effect. We also see sweet treats as a reward, so eating sugary items plays into this mindset.

Why is a sugar addiction a problem? Sugar is the number one culprit when it comes to weight gain and heart disease. The American Medical Association reports that people who receive more than 25 percent of their daily calories from sugar are more than twice as likely to die from heart disease as those whose diets only included 10 percent added sugar. Consuming excess sugar can lead to diabetes and disrupt the healthy levels of triglycerides in your bloodstream. (These are a type of fat found in your bloodstream and in your fatty tissue.) High triglyceride levels can increase your risk of heart disease. Sugary foods also provide only “empty” calories, meaning these calories are not combined with fiber, vitamins, minerals or other nutrients that benefit the body. When you fill up on sugary foods, you are less apt to eat healthy foods.

How do I fight a sugar addiction? There are a number of ways to help wean yourself away from the excess sugar habit:

Indulge just a little. Try reducing your sweet snacks to just a small cookie or a mini candy bar. Enjoying a little of what you crave can sometimes ease the transition to a healthier diet.

Combine a sweet food with a healthy one: Try mixing small candies like M&Ms with nuts and raisins, or dipping a banana in honey. Again, the overall goal is to transition away from sweet snacks, but reducing sweets while adding healthier foods is a step in the right direction. Try to reduce the sweets to no more than 150 calories.

Quit cold turkey. This approach is not for everyone, but for some it works the best. If you feel that eating even a small amount of sweet foods will trigger you to keep eating more, then the cold turkey approach may be a good fit. Be prepared that the first two or three days may be hard, but your cravings will diminish. Once you’ve cut out the excess sugar for a few weeks, your taste buds will start being satisfied with less.

Chew gum. Chewing gum can help reduce food cravings, but be aware that this practice can be harmful to teeth.

Stock up on healthy snacks. Have fruit, nuts, granola bars, apples with peanut butter, veggies and hummus and other things on hand to feed your cravings. In time, you won’t miss the sweet snacks, plus these kinds of snacks give you fiber and nutrients.

Take a walk. When that sugar craving hits, instead of reaching for a soda, get up from what you are doing and move around. Taking a walk is great because it takes you away from the place where you are used to munching on sugary foods; it gives you exercise — which also releases feel-good hormones, and, if you go outside, you are distracted by the change of scenery. If your job does not allow you to go outside, then try getting up and walking around the building for a bit.

More Video:

Ye Olde Cobbler in Portsmouth

Remove temptation. To truly kick the sugar habit, try not to have too much in the way of cookies, candy, soft drinks and other sweet snacks in the home or at your office. Remember, excess sugar can also lurk inside yogurts, cereals and store-bought goods. If you want a treat, try to bake something yourself where you can control the amount of sugar used. If your typical route to work regularly takes you by the drive-through with those tempting sweet coffees, alter your route.

Savor small bites. When you do indulge in something sweet, make it a small treat, and really savor it. Eat slowly and let all your senses enjoy the texture, taste and smell. Truly enjoying a good dessert will satisfy your brain and make you less apt to grab for more. (Indulging now and then is actually better than total deprivation, as you are more apt to break your fast and binge when desired foods are withheld.)

Make sure you eat regularly and drink lots of water. Getting too hungry can make you more apt to opt for sugary foods. Similarly, people often feel sluggish and tired because they are dehydrated, so keep the water coming and you’ll keep your energy up — and won’t need that candy bar.

Avoid artificial sweeteners as these will not lessen your cravings for sugar.

Plan your meals and snacks. This will help you map out healthy alternatives in advance.

Reward yourself for successfully reducing your sugar intake. If you can make it through a week without excess sugar, treat yourself to movie or other outing. Give yourself an incentive to keep kicking the sugar habit.

What if I need more help? In some cases, there are mental health issues behind the sugar addiction, just as there can be mental health issues behind other food issues. Depression, anxiety, abuse — all of these can lead to issues with food, including sugar addiction. If you have tried repeatedly to reduce your sugar intake without success, it may be time to talk to a mental health professional or a nutritionist. Sugar addiction can be overcome with the proper guidance.

Remember, no one becomes addicted to sugar overnight, and that this is a true addiction. It may take time to undo years of a bad habit, but it is possible and you will be healthier for it. Better choices will help you feel more energized and put you on the path to a healthier life.

Dr. David Schopick is a psychiatrist in private practice in Portsmouth. He is board certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in adult, adolescent and child psychiatry and has been serving patients in the Greater Seacoast area and beyond for more than 25 years. For information, call 431-5411 or visit


Read Labels to Find the Sugar

Sugar is hidden under wide range of names, so in order to know if you are getting added sugars, you must read labels. Usually if the sugar is fourth or more on the list, there is very little added sugar, but that isn’t 100% certain. To avoid sugar, you don’t want it on the label at all. Here are the usual suspects:

Agave nectar
Barley Sugar
Brown sugar
Cane crystals
Cane sugar
Corn sweetener
Corn syrup
Crystalline fructose
Evaporated cane juice
Fruit juice concentrates
High-fructose corn syrup
Invert sugar
Malt syrup
Raw sugar
Barley malt
Beet sugar
Brown sugar
Buttered syrup
Cane juice crystals
Cane sugar
Corn syrup
Corn syrup solids
Confectioner’s sugar
Carob syrup
Castor sugar
Date sugar
Demerara sugar
Diastatic malt
Ethyl maltol
Fruit juice
Fruit juice concentrate
Glucose solids
Golden sugar
Golden syrup
Grape sugar
High-fructose corn syrup
Icing sugar
Invert sugar
Malt syrup
Maple syrup
Maple sugar
Muscovado sugar
Raw sugar
Refiner’s syrup
Rice syrup
Sorghum syrup
Turbinado sugar
Yacon syrup
Yellow sugar

Sugar-Starch Detox Plan

Giving up sugar is not one bit easier than giving up any other addictive substance. In fact, I know a couple people who through AA gave up liquor only to then really struggle to give up sugars and starches.

What to expect: like giving up coffee, if you go cold-turkey, headaches, fatigue, crankiness, and very big cravings are all such symptoms to anticipate for usually 3-5 days. However, if you systematically plan to eliminate these addictive foods, and have good discipline, you can cut down sugar more slowly with little to no pain.

Keep a food diary of what you do eat/drink during this time. Each week builds, so you keep what you do in the first week when you start week two, and so on.

Week 1) No added sugar in any form (in beverages, desserts, any food)–certainly no junk food. If you feel headachy, that would be a good time for a small apple, a few berries, or a cheese stick.

Week 2) Stop any flours, regardless of how they are promoted as healthy, for carbohydrate sensitive people they are addictive, and indeed are broken down to the very same blood glucose as any other overt sugar. Increase your green and red veggies.

Week 3) Examine the foods you have been eating and determine if they are foods with high starch and added sugars. Cut back the obvious kinds of sugars-starches, especially packaged foods that nearly always have added sugars &/or starch.

Week 4) Now is the time to really get serious, and eliminate artificial sweeteners, save for modest amounts of natural sweeteners like stevia, monk fruit, and a small amount of xylitol or erythritol (these can create intestinal issues like excess bloating/gas).

One month and you should have an at least 80% or better clean eating plan. You can refine from that point to get your perfect balance, and you will no longer be a sugaraholic. Most people following this plan will drop weight, sometimes a lot of weight. All will be healthier, and on the road to all around excellent health.


Yours in good health,

Nan aka Sugarbaby

Is Sugar Addictive?

The answer for many people is an unqualified Yes! Certainly there is a spectrum in almost everything, including a person’s sensitivity to alcohol, marijuana, the whole gamut of substances, including sugar, that can be addictive. The astonishing rates of obesity, rising rapidly the last forty years, is proof that sugar (and all starchy/carb foods that turn into sugars in the blood stream) has become highly addictive for many people.

Here is another good article on the subject:

The sweet lowdown: Is sugar the world’s most ubiquitous drug?

By Marilisa Racco National Online Journalist, Smart Living Global News  

The hit. The rush. The crash. The need for another fix. This roller coaster-like experience is one we usually associate with an addictive drug, like heroin or cocaine. But studies have shown that we experience the same range of physiological responses when we consume sugar. Except that this white stuff is legal.

Like Homer Simpson with a box of donuts, sugar addicts scarf sweetened goods — which we now know transcend just desserts to include kitchen staples like tomato sauce, salad dressing, breads and cereals, among other items — greedily hunting down their euphoric effects.

“When one consumes excessive amounts of sugar, it leads to changes in gene expression for opioids that are similar to what you would see when someone is dependent on a drug like morphine,” says Nicole Avena, assistant professor at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and author of Why Diets Fail (Because You’re Addicted to Sugar).

In 2008, Avena co-authored an animal-based study on sugar dependence by analyzing four components of addiction: bingeing, withdrawal, craving and cross-sensitization. The behaviours that resulted from sugar consumption were then related to the neurochemical changes that happen in the brain with addictive drugs.

Upon consumption, sugar sends a message to the brain that triggers its reward system, which is the same system that surges when we do intensely pleasurable things like have sex or do drugs. Dopamine, which is the main chemical in the reward system, is sent into overdrive every time an addictive substance is consumed, thus causing the person to seek that “high” over and over again.

In a TED-Ed Original, How sugar affects the brain, Avena explains that dopamine is naturally released when we eat. But after eating the same food repeatedly, it starts to level out and we no longer experience the same “high” from eating it. (Apparently, you can get sick of pizza.) This is an evolutionary response to varying our diet to ensure we get a range of vitamins and minerals. However, with over-consumption of sugar, dopamine levels never even out. We simply don’t get sick of eating it.

The subjects of Avena’s study also experienced the classic symptoms of withdrawal normally associated with substance abuse.

“Excessive use of sugar can produce a withdrawal-like state that is characterized by tremors, shakes, anxiety and bodily changes that are similar to opiate withdrawal,” she says. “They’re all characteristics of addiction that have been shown with sugar.”

That’s something that Doreen can attest to. She went to Food Addicts Anonymous 27 years ago (she can’t share her last name as anonymity is an integral part of the program) and says she’s still relying on the tactics they taught her today.

“When I entered the program, the thought of not eating sugar was horrific,” she recalls. “But they said to me, ‘Can you do it for just one day?’ And I took it one day at a time, and still do that today.”

She also describes what she felt as she withdrew from sugar.

“Mood swings, back aches, flu-like symptoms, crying,” she says. “Everyone is a little different, but it’s an addiction and it will come with withdrawal.”

A not-so-sweet past

When we look at history, it comes as little surprise that there are parallels between sugar and other addictive substances. Sugar arrived on European shores from the tropics in the 16th century along with a spate of other now notorious delights, like coffee, chocolate, rum and tobacco.

Unfortunately, neither the dopamine response nor the forbidden nature of sugar are the only reasons we crave the sweet stuff. It turns out, we’re actually hardwired to want it.

“The T1R on the tongue that detects sweetness is the most evolutionary receptor we have,” says Robert Lustig, a professor of pediatrics at the University of California San Francisco and author of the upcoming book The Hacking of the American Mind: Inside the sugar-coated plot to confuse pleasure with happiness (September 2017).

Everyone is born with five taste receptors on the tongue — sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami (or savoury) — but our propensity for sweet dates back to ancestral times.

“Nature likes to experiment with mutation, but this taste was conserved all the way through virtually every animal and all humans,” he says. “It’s because sweet was an evolutionary signal that any given foodstuff in the wild was safe to eat. There’s nothing that tastes sweet that’s also acutely poisonous.”

But experts would argue that sugar is, in itself, a poison. The most recent Canadian statistics indicate that 20.2 per cent of adults (approximately 5.3 million people) classified as obese in 2014.

And the addiction isn’t just outwardly apparent, either. People blessed with a fast metabolism might be able to eat as much sugar as they want, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t wrecking havoc on their liver.

“Sugar is like alcohol, except it doesn’t give you the acute effects drinking does,” Lustig says.

Alcohol is borne from the fermentation of sugar; that’s what wine is. Except with alcohol, the yeast that’s in it takes the first step in metabolizing it, whereas, with sugar, our bodies take that first step. When our systems receive a rush of sugar, it can’t be metabolized, so it passes through the liver and becomes fat.

That liver fat is the starting point of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and tooth decay, and has been shown to have links to cancer and dementia.

“Virtually all the chronic diseases we are dying from are driven by sugar,” Lustig says.

The sugar cover-up Page 2 of 6

The sweet lowdown: Is sugar the worldʼs most ubiquitous drug? | 2/2/17, 9(42 AM

So, how did we become over-sweetened masses? It all started in the 1960s when sugar interest groups messed around with scientific studies.

The New York Times ran an exposé in September detailing how the sugar industry paid off scientists in the 1960s to downplay sugar’s effects on heart disease and instead single out saturated fat as the villain.

The documents were published in JAMA Internal Medicine and show how the Sugar Research Foundation paid three Harvard scientists $6,500 in 1965 (roughly $49,000 today) to conduct research studies on the effects of sugar and fat on heart disease. The foundation’s members then sifted through the studies to find the ones that indicated fat was the greatest health offender and published those in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“They were able to derail the discussion about sugar for decades,” Stanton Glantz, a professor of medicine at U.C.S.F. and an author of the JAMA Internal Medicine paper, said to The New York Times.

To add fuel to the fire, in 1977, the USDA released its first dietary guidelines pointing an accusatory finger at saturated and animal fats. The only problem was that people wouldn’t (or couldn’t) distinguish between healthy fats and saturated fats, so all fats were demonized. It gave birth to the low-fat movement, which opened the floodgates for added sugar.

“When you take the fat out of food, it tastes terrible,” Lustig says. “So they had to make it more palatable with added sugar.”

Sweet release

Like any addictive substance, quitting sugar requires a cold turkey approach, but the rapidity of positive effects might make the task a little easier.

In a 2015 study published in the journal Obesity, Lustig culled a group of 43 kids with metabolic syndrome (the precursor to diabetes) and replaced all the added sugar in their diets with starch. Pastries and teriyaki mains were replaced with bagels and turkey hot dogs, for example. (It’s important to note that the goal was not weight loss, but to measure the physiological changes from cutting out added sugar.)

After 10 days on this new diet, all participants showed improvements in their metabolic rates, including reduced blood pressure, lactate and triglyceride levels. While most participants lost weight, the study’s most interesting finding might just be that in those who did not lose weight, the metabolic changes were still consistent.

The inevitable takeaway is that sugar is bad for you.

Like fats, however, some sugar is fine. We know fruit is loaded with sugar, but because it has such a high fibre content, the fibre acts as a barrier in the intestine and prevents the body from absorbing the sugar. That’s also why juice is the worst way to ensure you’re meeting your daily fruit intake — once you take the fibre out, all you’re left with is sugar.

It’s hard to avoid added sugar, especially considering that two-thirds of all packaged foods in Canada contain added sugar, but there are some supermarket tactics you can employ.

“It’s like what health experts have been saying for a long time: shop the perimeter of the supermarket and take time to read labels,” says Quinn Hand, a naturopathic doctor and founder of Q Wellness. Page 3 of 6

The sweet lowdown: Is sugar the worldʼs most ubiquitous drug? | 2/2/17, 9(42 AM

It’s also important to educate yourself on the many aliases sugar goes by.
“The hard part is that people don’t know when they read ‘maltodextrin,’ it’s just another name for sugar,” she says.

She recognizes that sugar has quietly seeped its way into unassuming foods, like canned tomatoes, but she says that the first step in trying to reduce you and your family’s added sugar intake is to prepare things from scratch.

“Education has to come in especially for breakfast foods, because cereal has a lot of added sugar,” she says. “When we talk about breakfast, we want to talk about blood sugar sustaining foods, like eggs or steel-cut oats. High carbohydrate and sugary cereals are not beneficial.”

Kicking sugar is also a question of rethinking its place in modern life. As with most things, it’s about going back to basics.

“Once upon a time, sugar was a condiment that you used for coffee and tea,” Lustig says. “Now it’s a diet staple. We need to go back to a previous way of thinking. Bring back the concept of ‘one lump or two?’ and that will help keep our consumption under the disease-causing threshold.” Page 4 of 6



Sugar Addiction: Neuroscience Knows it is Real

Karen Thomson calls herself a recovering addict of sugar but her own struggles with addiction didn’t start with sugar. As an inpatient in a rehabilitation program treating alcohol and cocaine addiction, Thomson discovered that her behavioural addiction to illegal substances started with her sugar intake at a young age.

“My first memory of using sugar to soothe myself, to make myself feel better … was when I was four-years-old and there was a big trauma in my family at that time,” Thomson tells The Current’s Anna Maria Tremonti. She remembers her dad at the time coming home at night with a Coca-Cola and a chocolate representing safety and security to Thomson.


Brain activity of people addicted to sugar matches that of people addicted to other substances, says neuroscientist Nicole Avena. (rpavich/flickr cc)

“From that time I started associating the sugary product with these feelings of love and comfort.”

Thomson now practices abstinence from sugar as she does from alcohol and drugs.

“Very often as with other addiction there’s an underlying trauma that hasn’t been dealt with. And that’s why they’re addicted to an external substance,” says Thomson, also the author of  Sugar Free: 8 Weeks to Freedom from Sugar and Carb Addiction. Thomson has used her experience to establish the HELP clinic in Cape Town, South Africa, to help others kick the sugar habit.

Related: Evidence for Sugar Addiction

Neuroscientist Nicole Avena, who specializes in diet and addiction, tells Tremonti that research going back 15 years shows how the brain reacts when a person consumes an excessive amount of sugar.

“There’s activation in areas of the brain that are similar to what you see with an addiction to a drug abuse.”

It also means sugar withdrawal can have similar symptoms to nicotine or morphine withdrawal such as irritability, tremors and shakes.

Avena says addiction treatment follows different approaches that work for different people but suggests using a harm reduction model: cutting out the problematic food can help control intake over time and slowly reduce it.

“Often this is done many times with cases of alcohol misuse and … get to the point where they are regaining control of their behavior and then are slowly able to reintroduce it — with a lot of self-checking along the way to make sure that they’re not having those old habits creep back into play.”

Listen to the full conversation including author of The Hunger Fix, Dr. Pamela Peeke.

This segment was produced by The Current’s Sujata Berry and Sam Colbert.


More on Effects of Sugar

by Sarene Kloren 

It’s no longer a secret that the vast majority of us are blissfully unaware sugar addicts. Modern conveniences in consumables are great at making life easier in the short term, but what about the long-term implications?

A report published in 2009 shows food addiction is plausible as “brain pathways that evolved to respond to natural rewards are also activated by addictive drugs. Sugar releases opioids and dopamine and, thus, might be expected to have addictive potential”.

A further report published in 2013 indicates that sugar is as, if not more, desirable than addictive drugs such as cocaine. This research aims to prove that “sugar and sweetness can induce reward and craving that are comparable in magnitude to those induced by addictive drugs”.

With these two findings it’s hard to believe that, as parents, we are still largely oblivious to the long-term, damaging effects of over consuming sugar-dense foods and beverages.

So a sugar tax may be introduced, which will certainly help moderate and potentially reduce the average consumption of free sugars (sugar added to food and drink, as well as sugar found naturally in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates). But it will take a deeper understanding of what we consume to avoid the top health issues South Africans currently face – obesity, diabetes and heart conditions – all resulting largely from sugar-dense diets and little to no exercise.

According to a statement released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) “adults and children need to reduce their daily intake of free sugars to less than 10 percent of their total energy intake. A further reduction to below five percent or roughly 25 grams (6 teaspoons) a day would provide additional health benefits”.

So what is a safe recommended daily allowance for sugar? Although we all lead different lifestyles and have varying metabolic requirements, the UK’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) have suggested the following:

* Children aged 4 to 6 should have no more than 19g or five teaspoons of free sugars a day.

* Children aged 7 to 10 should have no more than 24g or six teaspoons of free sugars a day.

* Children aged 11 years and upwards, as well as adults, should have no more than 30g or seven teaspoons of free sugar a day.

To illustrate what this means, take a look at some of the popular beverages our children love, and their approximate sugar contents:

* 250ml iced tea = 19g or four teaspoons of free sugar.

* 250ml flavoured drinking yoghurt = 26.8 g or five and a half teaspoons of free sugar.

* 330ml cola = 35g or seven teaspoons of free sugar.

* 330ml ginger beer = 37g or six and a half teaspoons of free sugar.

Overcoming an addiction is by no means an easy feat and the same holds true for sugar dependency. Almost all modern convenience consumables contain added free sugar, especially children’s favourites such as cereals, beverages, fast foods and treats.

So how do we reduce the excess sugars from our diets?

1 Become aware. Understand that food is medicine and always try to ensure that all consumables remain as close as possible to their natural state. If sweetening is required, look at healthier options such as fresh fruit or vegetables.

2 Read labels carefully. Not all free or added sugars are labelled as sugars. For example: agave nectar, corn sweetener, dextrose, honey, corn syrup, sucrose, fructose, glucose and molasses.

3 Limit sugar added beverages, cited as being responsible for the majority of added sugar in US diets. Try naturally flavouring water or using a SodaStream to make fun, healthier drink options. Their syrups also comprise one third of the sugar compared to regular sodas.

4 Reduce your family’s super sweet sugar tolerance with a moderated sugar and bolstered wholefood diet. Over time, consumables high in sugar will start tasting too sweet as your tolerance returns to its normal, natural state.

5 Bake instead of buying treats. Homemade treats will no doubt contain less added and highly synthetic sweeteners, and you have the ability to further reduce the sugar content with natural sweeteners like fruits or vegetables. One favourite cupcake recipe calls for swopping out a large portion of the sugar for a glass of white wine. The alcohol cooks out and makes a delicious, moist cupcake.

The key to all healthy living is moderation and a balanced diet. This is not to say indulgent foods high in fat and/or sugar can’t be enjoyed. They can, but just not daily.


New Taubes’ Article-Nutritionists Who Aid the Sugar Industry

Note the 655% increase in diabetes in the last sixty years which correlates all too well with the increase in sugar in foods.