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Sugar Addiction: More Serious Than You Think

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that an adult living on a standard 2,000 calorie diet should aim to consume about 25 grams of sugar per day. A single can of coke contains 44 grams.

You’re probably consuming more sugar per day than experts would recommend. Unless you’re serious about watching what you eat (although counting calories alone can still lead to over-consumption of sugar) or have struggled with your sweet tooth in the past, the WHO’s sugar recommendations might seem absurdly low.

And that’s not entirely your fault. The average American consumes 17 teaspoons (71.14 grams) of sugars per day – more than three times WHO’s recommended standard! Part of the blame must be placed on America’s wealth of sugary food options, some capable of fooling even the health-conscious consumer. One cup of Dannon Low-Fat Vanilla Yogurt, for example, contains a soul-crushing 34 grams of sugar. Meanwhile, VitaminWater contains 17 grams.

AddictionCenter.com links the addictive properties of sugar to those of cocaine (although the effects are far diminished). It “can create a spark of energy and a short-term high in the body”, warns the article, citing a dopamine release as the root cause of that “short term high”. “However, long-term health effects like obesity and diabetes are a risk of sugar overindulgence.

Science on the topic strongly points to the existence of such an addiction. An animal study published in the Journal of Nutritional Neuroscience titled “Implications of an animal model of sugar addiction, withdrawal and relapse for human health” used biotelemetry transmitters to study the effects of intermittent sugar administration to a group of rats. Over time, the administration of sugar was connected to weight gain, obesity and Type II diabetes.

“The study demonstrates that the effects of sugar addiction, withdrawal and relapse are similar to those of drugs of abuse.”

Implications of an animal model of sugar addiction, withdrawal and relapse for human health

It’s not all bad news, however. If you’ve struggled with weight gain or avoiding junk foods in the past, stomping that sugar addiction may have been the missing piece to your weight-loss puzzle.

In other words: Since many Americans may be experiencing compulsive cravings towards sugar due to addictions they never knew existed, breaking those habits could make avoiding junk foods in the future easier than ever!

Written by Joseph Detrano, CAS Science Writer
Disclaimer: The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the Center of Alcohol & Substance Use Studies