Is Sugar Addictive?

07/19/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

We think it is. We have enough scientific evidence now to tell us that we can train ourselves to crave, to build tolerance and to experience withdrawal when we ingest a lot of refined sugar. These are the hallmarks of addiction. Craving, tolerance and withdrawal.

Dr. Serge Ahmed, of Bordeaux, France, has been working with rats and giving them the choice between cocaine and sugar. Guess what wins, time and again? That's right, sugar. The sweet taste of sugar is more rewarding than the high of cocaine.

Some people know they are sugar addicts and cannot handle it at all. They know because they can't stop eating it once they start. They crave sugary foods and they need more and more to feel satisfied. They also experience withdrawal if they stop eating sugar.

We believe this is because of the effect sugar has on the brain. Sugar, like drugs of abuse, produces dopamine in the brain. The body's own happy, feel good, chemical. For some true sugar addicts, they need this to feel OK. When they eat sugar, they feel good. When it wears off, they need more. If they stop sugar for a period of time, their brains will begin to produce dopamine on their own. This takes some time, however. The problem lies in the fact that much of our default food is high in refined sugar and carbohydrates. Trying to avoid it, is very difficult. That combined with the discomfort of withdrawal, keeps many sugar addicts trapped in their addiction.

We are still learning about the science of this. Meanwhile, I'd like to show you some pictures (thanks to my friends at Sugar Stacks) that illustrate how much sugar is in the foods we eat. These are very graphic images, so be warned.



One half cup serving vs. one pint of Ben and Jerry's.


One 8oz. glass vs. the 16oz. container of chocolate milk



Starbuck's frappuccino.


McDonald's triple chocolate shake.


1 cup of sliced apples vs. 1 whole medium apple




Alarmed by what you have just seen? You should be. Refined sugar is relatively new in our diets. Compared to what our genes are prepared to handle, this is above and beyond what is biologically good for us. This one last image is how many carrots you would need to eat to equal the refined sugar in this product:


I hope this has been educational for you. Be healthy!!!

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