Diet and Nutrition

How Addictive Is Sugar, Really?

Is Sugar as Addictive as Heroin?

How Addictive Is Sugar, Really?

There are hundreds of myths surrounding diet habits, especially sugar. However, how can you tell which ones are true and which ones are nothing but rumors? Well, here we'll dive into some rumors regarding sugar to understand just how much effect sugar has on your health - and even if it could be as addictive as heroin.

Does sugar cause hyperactivity in children?

Many assume that sugar is the culprit in hyperactive tendencies in children, but after many research studies attempted to prove this hypothesis and failed, we're left to believe it most likely isn't the truth.

So, if it isn't scientifically sound then how did this notion originate? Many assume that it began in 1974 from a letter to the American Academy of Pediatrics by Dr. William Crook. When it subsequently became published, many latched onto the mention "only in the past three years have I become aware that sugar ... is a leading cause of hyperactivity." Despite the fact that this letter was not compounded by significant research or evidence, people began to believe that sugar could indeed be a cause of hyperactivity. While it does not specifically mention children, it has been widely applied to them after the fact.

The National Institute of Mental Health has stated "the idea that refined sugar causes ADHD or makes symptoms worse is popular, but more research discounts this theory than supports it."

Is natural sugar better for you than processed sugar?

With artificial sweeteners in almost everything, one is left to wonder whether natural sugar, like honey, would be much healthier. However, scientists have shown that a granola bar made with natural honey isn't actually any healthier than with high-fructose corn syrup. The researchers explained, "scientists would be surprised to hear about the 'clear superiority' of honey, since there is near unanimous consensus that the biological effect of high-fructose corn syrup are essentially the same as those of honey."

So, can we get away with those delicious sweeteners we love in candies and sugary drinks? Well, not necessarily. Even though processed sugar is not necessarily any worse for you than natural sweeteners, candy and other sweet products tend to have more sugar per serving, which is the problem. With more sugar per serving comes more calories, so still be on the lookout for how much sugar is in a product, instead of what kind of sugar.

Is sugar as addictive as heroin?

While it may seem ridiculous to think of sugar being as addictive as a serious drug, many believe that it may be. This started when Dr. Robert Lustig wrote the book "Fat Chance" in 2009.

In the book, he stated that sugar is capable of stimulating the brain's reward system in precisely the same way that alcohol, cocaine, tobacco, and heroine can - making it equally as addictive as those substances. Despite his references to studies that were able to depict how parts of the brain illuminate during consumption of a sugar "reward", the same way that these light up for drug consumption, drinking alcohol, or even having sex, the science is far from conclusive.

Read on to learn more about sugar's addictive properties.