Is Sugar an Addictive Drug?

The “sugar detox” is currently popular.  For a period of time, you give up all processed foods with added sugar.  The theory is that sugar is like an addictive drug that must be cleansed from your system.

Is there a scientific basis for this?

In a study a few years ago, French researchers found “available evidence in humans shows that sugar and sweetness can induce reward and craving that are comparable in magnitude to those induced by addictive drugs.”

The study said that sugar’s physiological reward was not only like that of addictive drugs, but could be even stronger.  “At the neurobiological level, the neural substrates of sugar and sweet reward appear to be more robust than those of cocaine.”

In a separate study, researchers in Norway followed the dietary habits of almost 200 drug addicts.  Two-thirds of the addicts reported having limited access to food, mainly due to lack of money.  Despite variations in energy intake, there was a common preference for unhealthy food items such as sweet snacks and sweet beverages.

The researchers wrote that the most striking features of the addicts’ diets included “the high intake of added sugar.”  They agreed with previous research that “such dietary patterns and irregular eating may trigger inebriation mechanisms in the central nervous system, producing reinforced addiction.”

The second study used an Agilent liquid chromatograph in its analysis.

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