Hi. I’m Liz. And I’m a Sugar Addict.
A sugar fast.
Whatever you call it, swearing off sugar is the latest diet trend. And why wouldn’t it be? Every other day I hear something about “sugar addiction”. Did you know “sugar is eight times more addictive than cocaine”? And just think, all this time we were only blaming sugar for cavities and hyper kids!
To tell you the truth, there IS science about “sugar addiction”. In rats.
Before you ditch sugar completely, here’s what you need to know:
- Dopamine doesn’t equal addiction. Rats get a dopamine rush after a sugar binge, just like drug addicts after a hit. But healthy brains release dopamine all the time. It surges during orgasm, exercise, even while listening to good music. A bump in dopamine while eating sugar doesn’t mean it’s addictive.
- Sweet and Sugar aren’t the same thing. It’s true rats chose a sweetened drink over cocaine, but it wasn’t just sugar. The original study used saccharin. You know – the no-calorie stuff in the pink “Sweet ‘n Low” packets? This study showed rats have a strong response to any sweet-taste, not just sugar.
- You’re not a rat. Rats might prefer sweetness to cocaine, but monkeys don’t. Over, and over, monkeys choose cocaine over food (including sugary food) to the point of starvation. I know, I know… You’re not a monkey either! But primates are a better predictor of human biology than rodents.
- You’re human. And humans show no signs of sugar addiction. Out of ten addiction indicators (like bingeing and withdrawal), current science hasn’t found any evidence of addiction in human studies with sugar. Zero.
Sugar is not an addiction. But like anything that feels good and fulfills a basic need, it can become compulsive. It’s not uncommon to use food as a way to decompress, “numb-out”, or distract yourself. Even habitually. And because modern foods have crazy amounts of the sweet stuff it’s easy to over-do it.
No need to cut sugar cold-turkey. Just be aware of added sugars and cut back where you can to still be satisfied.
Plain Cheerios makes you as happy as the honey-sweetened? Great! I couldn’t pry a morning Mountain Dew from your cold, dead hand? Fine. Remember, it’s just food.