Sugar ‘is the new crack cocaine’


One of the most common modern day dependencies is our growing addiction to sugar. We hear a lot about addiction to caffeine, sleeping pills and alcohol. Can we really add sugar to that list?

According to an increasing number of ‘sugar experts’ the answer is yes.

Studies in mice have clearly shown that sugar is addictive.

By manipulating their diet to include more or less sugar, or to produce a sugar withdrawal effect, scientists can produce similar behaviour to true drug addiction.

What’s more, in a study by French scientists, rats chose sugar over cocaine – even when they were addicted to cocaine.


Weight-loss expert Dr Sally Norton warns the growing addiction to sugar is as dangerous as addictions to alcohol and tobacco, fueling obesity and increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer

Not surprisingly, in humans such studies are a bit more difficult to do.

However, research using brain scans found that drinking sugary milkshakes triggered the same ‘reward centre’.

What’s more, increasing the amount of fat in the milkshake didn’t really affect it – sugar was the culprit.

And as with any potentially addictive substance, the more we consume, the more our reward receptors get numbed to it – so we look for even more to re-create that ‘high’.

Drug addicts do it, alcoholics do it, and there is increasing evidence that sugar causes similar behaviour.

And the double whammy is that these receptors seem to get fewer as we pile on the weight – which may explain why people can get into a downward weight spiral.

The more we consume, the more our reward receptors get numbed to it – so we look for even more to re-create that high

This means the heavier we get, the less of a high we get from food, and the more we look for it.

So if you find yourself constantly craving sugary treats (even more than usual at this time of year), the less than sweet truth is it may be more than a bad habit you’ve picked up over the festive season.

You may have one of the most common modern-day dependencies – sugar addiction.

All this goes some way to explain why we are consuming increasing amounts of the white stuff (sugar I mean).

What’s more, modern diets – and the amount of hidden sugar contained in processed foods and many drinks – mean even those who aren’t addicted can find it hard to reduce their sugar consumption.

As with any potentially addictive substance, the more sugar we consume, the more our reward receptors get numbed to it – so we look for even more to re-create that ‘high’, Dr Norton warns

The average Brit consumes way over the recommended six teaspoons a day recommended by the World Health Organisation.

And it’s easy to see why when you consider a can of coke or glass of orange juice can contain around nine teaspoons, a bowl of cereal over three teaspoons and a shop bought sandwich a teaspoon or more.

We won’t even think about the 20 teaspoons reportedly found in a large chai latte from a major coffee shop chain. It soon adds up.

But the good news is that with the right information and support we can learn to manage our sugar cravings, as well as avoiding some of those hidden sugars – made easier this month by the release of Public Health England’s free app.

And with overconsumption of sugar now deemed as harmful to our health as alcohol or tobacco – contributing to rising rates of obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardio-vascular problems and some cancers – cutting back on the white stuff could just be one of the best things you do to improve your health and weight this year.