Throughout history, addiction has often been associated with illicit substances like cocaine, cannabis, and heroin, among others. Nevertheless, recent data indicates that sugar surpasses these illegal substances in terms of its addictive potential.
An analysis published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine asserts that refined sugar has a comparable impact on the brain as illegal drugs like cocaine.
According to this review, research involving rats has unveiled drug-like consequences, including episodes of excessive consumption, intense cravings, tolerance development, withdrawal symptoms, dependency, and feelings of reward.
“Consuming sugar produces effects similar to that of cocaine, altering mood, possibly through its ability to induce reward and pleasure, leading to the seeking out of sugar,” cardiovascular research scientist James J DiNicolantonio, cardiologist James H O’Keefe, and Physician William Wilson write in the review.
The doctors further illustrate a scenario in which the rats they tested exhibited a preference for sugar over cocaine, and they even displayed withdrawal symptoms when the sweetener was denied to them.
He attributed this phenomenon to the absence of a built-in “aversion signal” for sugar, unlike the one for salt that naturally limits our salt intake.
“Withdrawal symptoms from sugar come from dopamine deficiency in the brain. This may lead to symptoms such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and it may even create a similar state in the brain as found in patients with depression,” he elaborates.
In essence, this implies that, unlike salt, which people typically stop consuming when they’ve had their fill, individuals can consume sugar in unlimited quantities, whenever they please.
That being acknowledged, the cardiologist concedes that sugar withdrawal effects in humans are primarily experienced in the realm of the brain rather than manifesting as physical symptoms.
This shortfall can be momentarily alleviated by consuming more sugar, which is why the term “sugar fix” exists.
It’s worth noting that this is among the reasons why the World Health Organization advises restricting sugar intake for children. Excessive dietary sugar can harm the livers and brains of young individuals, much like alcohol does.
Setting addiction aside, excessive sugar consumption can lead to weight gain, heightening the risk of developing conditions like diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers.
Given that sugar provides minimal nutritional value to our bodies, healthcare professionals and scientists advocate for its consumption in moderation.