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Is Sugar Addictive?


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  1. 1. Do you think sugar is addictive?

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Is Sugar Addictive?

There are reputable sources who say it is and those who say it is is not. I have collected the sources who say it is along with the those who say sugar is not addictive (scroll down). You be the judge. 

Sources Who Say Sugar is Addictive

"Our findings clearly demonstrate that intense sweetness can surpass cocaine reward, even in drug-sensitized and -addicted individuals. We speculate that the addictive potential of intense sweetness results from an inborn hypersensitivity to sweet tastants. In most mammals, including rats and humans, sweet receptors evolved in ancestral environments poor in sugars and are thus not adapted to high concentrations of sweet tastants. The supranormal stimulation of these receptors by sugar-rich diets, such as those now widely available in modern societies, would generate a supranormal reward signal in the brain, with the potential to override self-control mechanisms and thus to lead to addiction."

Intense Sweetness Surpasses Cocaine Reward
Magalie Lenoi , Fuschia Serre, Lauriane Cantin, Serge H. Ahmed 
Plos One

"Sugar is addictive. And we don’t mean addictive in that way that people talk about delicious foods. We mean addictive, literally, in the same way as drugs. And the food industry is doing everything it can to keep us hooked."

Sugar Season. It’s Everywhere, and Addictive.
By JAMES J. DiNICOLANTONIO and SEAN C. LUCANDEC. 22, 2014, New York Times

"Withdrawal from a “sugar-rich” diet is associated with behavior suggestive of “withdrawal” symptoms."

Diabetes 2016 Jul; 65(7): 1797-1799.
Is Sugar Addictive?
George A. Bray

"Sugar addiction happens due to intense cravings for sweet food. It is triggered by the brain by sending signals to the receptors in our tongue that were not able to develop from the low-sugar diets of our ancestors"

The Truth About Sugar Addiction
By Dr. Mercola, 

"The biological robustness in the neural substrates of sugar and sweet reward may be sufficient to explain why many people can have difficultly to control the consumption of foods high in sugar when continuously exposed to them."

Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2013 Jul;16(4):434-9. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0b013e328361c8b8.
Sugar addiction: pushing the drug-sugar analogy to the limit.
Ahmed SH, Guillem K, Vandaele Y.

"In animals, it’s a “no-brainer.” Dr. Nicole Avena of Columbia University exposes rats to sugar water in an excess-deprivation paradigm for three weeks, and they demonstrate all the criteria needed to diagnose addiction: binging, withdrawal, craving, and addiction transfer (when you’re addicted to one substance, you’re addicted to others as well)."

The Sugar-Addiction Taboo
When can you call a food addictive?
ROBERT H. LUSTIG, The Atlantic 

"In animal studies, sugar has been found to produce more symptoms than is required to be considered an addictive substance. Animal data has shown significant overlap between the consumption of added sugars and drug-like effects, including bingeing, craving, tolerance, withdrawal, cross-sensitisation, cross-tolerance, cross-dependence, reward and opioid effects. Sugar addiction seems to be dependence to the natural endogenous opioids that get released upon sugar intake. In both animals and humans, the evidence in the literature shows substantial parallels and overlap between drugs of abuse and sugar, from the standpoint of brain neurochemistry as well as behaviour."

Sugar addiction: is it real? A narrative review
James J DiNicolantonio, James H O'Keefe, William L Wilson
British Journal of Sports Medicine 

"In an interview with Lisa Mullins from Here & Now, Dr. DiNicolantonio further stated that some studies on rats show that sugar is potentially more addictive that cocaine because even after being hooked on cocaine, they invariably switch to sugar when it is introduced to them."

Sugar Addiction: Facts And Figures

"Your brain also sees sugar as a reward, which makes you keep wanting more of it. If you often eat a lot of sugar, you're reinforcing that reward, which can make it tough to break the habit."

Slideshow: The Truth About Sugar Addiction

"So drugs and sugar both activate the same reward system in the brain, causing the release of dopamine."

Fact or fiction – is sugar addictive?

"The link between sugar and addictive behavior is tied to the fact that, when we eat sugar, opioids and dopamine are released."

Experts Agree: Sugar Might Be as Addictive as Cocaine
Written by Anna Schaefer and Kareem Yasin, healthline

"Scientists have found that sugar is addictive and stimulates the same pleasure centers of the brain as cocaine or heroin. Just like those hard-core drugs, getting off sugar leads to withdrawal and cravings, requiring an actual detox process to wean off."

Are You Addicted to Sugar? Here’s How to Break the Cycle, by Sarah Elizabeth Richards, Daily Burn, Life

"While it is true that sugary foods can stimulate the same part of the brain responsible for pleasure and reward, as do many illicit substances, there are reasons other than addiction that eating could be linked with the reward area of the brain."

Is sugar addictive?
CSU External Relations Staff

"Despite the anecdotal reports of people who claim to be addicted to sugar, and seemingly endless Web sites devoted to sugar addiction," says Cynthia Bartok, associate director for the Center for Childhood Obesity Research in Penn State's College of Health and Human Development, "modern science has not yet validated that idea." "However, 'yet' may be the key word," Bartok adds. "It was once thought of as pseudoscience, but a whole field of research has sprung out of the idea that food components such as sugar or fat may have some similarities to addictive drugs."

Probing Question: Is sugar addictive?
Lisa Duchene, Penn State

"But the study inadvertently highlights an important truth: Anything that provides pleasure (or relieves stress) can be the focus of an addiction, the strength of which depends not on the inherent power of the stimulus but on the individual's relationship with it, which in turn depends on various factors, including his personality, circumstances, values, tastes, and preferences. As Peele and other critics of neurological reductionism have been pointing out for many years, the reality of addiction lies not in patterns of brain activity but in the lived experience of the addict."

Research Shows Cocaine And Heroin Are Less Addictive Than Oreos, Jacob Sullum, Forbes

"The evidence supports the hypothesis that under certain circumstances rats can become sugar dependent. This may translate to some human conditions as suggested by the literature on eating disorders and obesity."

Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews
Volume 32, Issue 1, 2008, Pages 20-39
Evidence for sugar addiction: Behavioral and neurochemical effects of intermittent, excessive sugar intake
Nicole M. Avena, Pedro Rada, Bartley G. Hoebel

"For many years, studies have demonstrated that sugar triggers the brain’s pleasure and reward centers—areas in the emotional centers of the brain responsible for the release of “feel good” neurotransmitters called dopamine. These are the same brain areas stimulated by cocaine, nicotine, opiates (such as heroin and morphine), and alcohol. This addiction is not an imaginary thing in the minds of millions of sugar junkies—it’s associated with real physiological changes in the brain. And, perhaps because the brain’s pleasure areas are also very close to the pain centers, withdrawal from sugar has been described by many patients as being painful—like romantic pain or eliminating nicotine or caffeine."

Sugar Addiction: Is It Real?
By Dr. Phil Maffetone
April 9, 2015, Fat-Burning Journal, Nutrition, MAF

"According to Avena, when we eat sugar a signal is sent from the tongue to the cerebral cortex that activates a “rewards system.” This in turn encourages us to eat more. A huge part of the rewards system is the release of dopamine in our brain, which, when put into overdrive, can be pretty addictive."

This Is Why You’re ‘Addicted’ To Sugar
There’s a reason it feels so darn good.
By Cate Matthews, Healthy Living, Huffpost

"Speaking to the Guardian, DiNicolantonio said that the consumption of sugar was a grave concern. “In animals, it is actually more addictive than even cocaine, so sugar is pretty much probably the most consumed addictive substance around the world and it is wreaking havoc on our health.” 

Is sugar really as addictive as cocaine? Scientists row over effect on body and brain, by Nicola Davis, theguardian

"Studies show that sugar lights up the same exact area of our brain that is stimulated by drugs. For some people, the highs, lows and withdrawal from sugar can be just as powerful and dramatic as what a drug addict experiences."

Sugar and Your Brain: Why Sugar Is So Very Addictive
By: Rachel Gargano MS, RD, LDN, CSSD, Reboot with Joe

"Sugar addiction should be treated like drug abuse, new research has revealed."
Sugar addiction like drug abuse, study reveals, by  Nicola Harley, Telegraph

"It is widely thought to affect the brain in a similar way to cocaine, and now a new study has suggested people addicted to sugar should be treated in the same way as other drug abusers."

Sugar addiction 'should be treated as a form of drug abuse'
by Matt Payton, Independent

"Taubes surveys the admittedly sparse research on sugar's psychoactive effects. For example, researchers have found that eating sugar stimulates the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is also released when consuming nicotine, cocaine, heroin, or alcohol. Researchers are still debating the question of whether or not sugar is, in some sense, addictive."

Is Sugar an Addictive Poison?
Hypothesis: More sugar causes both more diabetes and more obesity
Ronald Bailey | January 6, 2017, reason.com

"Research published in the Public Library of Science highlights a strange lab rat experiment involving sugar and cocaine. The rats were given cocaine until they became dependent on it. Then, researchers provided them a choice – the rats could continue to have the cocaine or they could switch to sugar. Guess which one the rodents chose? Yup, the sugar. 94% chose to make the switch. Even when they had to work hard to access the sugar, the rats were more interested in it than they were in the cocaine."

Study Shows Sugar is More Addictive Than Cocaine!, David Wolfe

"Sugary and high-fat food have both been shown to increase the expression of ΔFosB, an addiction biomarker, in the D1-type medium spiny neurons of the nucleus accumbens; however, there is very little research on the synaptic plasticity from compulsive food consumption, a phenomenon which is known to be caused by ΔFosB overexpression." Food Addiction, Wikipedia

Sources Who Say Sugar is Not Addictive

"That is definitely a problem, but is not necessarily an addiction."

Is Sugar Addiction?
by Susan J. SMith, Ph.D, CDE, Visalia Medical Clinic

"Most of the research they found on sugar addiction was done using mice or rats, and it’s not clear that these findings will translate perfectly to people."

Everyone Calm Down for a Minute About ‘Sugar Addiction,’ Neuroscientists Plead
By Melissa Dahl, Science of Us, NYMag

"Given the lack of evidence supporting it, we argue against a premature incorporation of sugar addiction into the scientific literature and public policy recommendations."

European Journal of Nutrition
November 2016, Volume 55, Supplement 2, pp 55–69
Sugar addiction: the state of the science
Margaret L. WestwaterPaul C. FletcherHisham Ziauddeen

"Prof Suzanne Dickson, of Gothenburg University and co-ordinator of the NeuroFAST project, said: "There has been a major debate over whether sugar is addictive.
"There is currently very little evidence to support the idea that any ingredient, food item, additive or combination of ingredients has addictive properties."

Sugar 'not addictive' says Edinburgh University study
9 September 2014
From the section Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland, BBC

Is Sugar addictive? Why not try removing sugar from your diet and see what happens. You be the judge.

Et Cetera

What is ΔFosB?

"Until recently, it was generally assumed that if we wanted something, it was because we liked it. But science is now questioning that idea - and pointing the way to a possible cure for addiction...Was it possible that wanting a thing, and liking it, corresponded to distinct systems in the brain? And was it possible that dopamine didn't affect liking - it was all about wanting?" [1]

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End Notes 

[1] The science of addiction: Do you always like the things you want?, David Edmonds, BBC World Service

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