“Sugar is eight times more addictive than cocaine. And what’s interesting is that while cocaine and heroin activate only one spot for pleasure in the brain, sugar lights up the brain like a pinball machine!’ – Dr Mark Hyman 

The concept of sugar addiction is relatively new, but more and more studies are showing that it is indeed very real. Sugar alters our brain’s biochemical pathways and studies have likened it to being as addictive as cocaine. Whether we realise it or not, many of us use sugar and carbs to alter our brain chemistry, to experience a rush of dopamine that stimulates our reward centres and makes us feel good. In other words, sugar and sweet reward is not only able to act as a substitute for addictive drugs, such as cocaine, but can even be more rewarding and attractive.

DOPAMINE is a messenger hormone in the brain that is released as a result of rewards, including sex, food and drugs. Dopamine makes us feel good. In short, it is an addictive, pleasure, and reward neurotransmitter. Dopamine is released not only once we have consumed sugar but even at the expectation of consuming it. This explains why even the sight of a cupcake or the smell of freshly baked bread can render us powerless. For some people merely seeing pictures or thinking of high-sugar foods such as a milkshake can trigger these brain effects. The ‘high’ (a neurochemical addiction) can provide the individual with further motivation to eat sugar. Once the effect of the sugar and carbs wears off, the cravings start, which creates an addiction cycle.

SEROTONIN is a mood-lifting neurotransmitter. Some addictive substances raise the levels of serotonin, resulting in positive feelings. Once the effect has worn off, the serotonin levels drop, leaving users feeling like they have ‘crashed’. (Can you relate to a sugar high followed by a sugar low?) A lack of serotonin can also make you feel depressed or under the weather. High carbohydrate and sugary foods are also great at raising levels of serotonin. This explains why so many of us turn to carbohydrate-rich foods such as chocolate, ice cream, or cake when we’re feeling down. 

Addiction is a disorder, a disease. It’s the dependence on a substance such as heroin, alcohol or sugar, or a behaviour such as binge eating, gaming, or gambling, which is detrimental to the person using the substance or engaging in the behaviour. In addition to sugar and carbs being chemically addictive, they have strong emotional and behavioural addictive properties too. We believe sugar addiction involves a compulsive pursuit of foods rich in sugar and carbohydrates in response to feelings, both positive and negative. Do this sound familiar? 

‘I’m stressed; a can of soda will calm me down.’ 

‘I’m feeling unhappy and in need of comfort; if I just eat that doughnut I’ll feel better.’

‘I’m lonely, that extra slice of bread will help me to feel better.’ 

Most of the time this happens unconsciously (auto-pilot behaviour) A sugar and carbohydrate addict will use sugar and carbohydrates compulsively despite the negative consequences. The consequences differ for each person but could include the following: Too much sugar is bad for your heart, kidneys, liver, pancreas, and brain. Emotional disturbances such as mood swings, depression, and anxiety. When you consume sugar, your pancreas must produce insulin to normalize your blood sugar levels. Overconsumption of sugar will cause your pancreas to work overtime and get damaged and increase your risk of Type 2 Diabetes. It can cause weight gain. Sugar and artificial sweeteners are highly acidic foods. On the other hand, a diet that’s high in sugar can lower your stomach acid levels. 

Sugar makes your organs fat…. 

It plays havoc with cholesterol levels… 

It’s linked to Alzheimer’s disease… 

It turns you into an addict… 

It disables your appetite control…

It can make you depressed… 

Sugar cravings can replace alcohol cravings – This is because sugar impacts the same region of the brain as alcohol and drugs, as it stimulates the pleasure centre of the brain. After you quit drinking, your brain and body know that they can experience a similar high or toxification with sugar. 

May increase your risk of cancer. 

May accelerate the skin ageing process. 

Can increase cellular ageing. 

Most kids won’t turn down a sugary treat, but it turns out some children prefer more intense sweetness than others. 

“We know that sweet taste is rewarding to all kids and makes them feel good,” said lead researcher Julie Mennella, a developmental psychobiologist at Monell Chemical Senses Centre in Philadelphia. “In addition, certain groups of children may be especially attracted to intense sweetness due to their underlying biology (to have a family history of alcoholism and depressive symptoms) .” Sugar is children’s alcohol… alcohol soothes emotional pain.

Sugar and alcohol are metabolised in the same way in the liver. You get alcohol from fermentation of sugar, so it makes sense that when you overload the liver with either one you get the similar symptoms/disease.