Sugar junkie? Study suggests excessive sugar intake is similar to drug addiction

Excess sugar consumption should be considered a form of addiction, an animal study revealed. A team of researchers at the Queensland University of Technology found that excessive, long-term sugar consumption may trigger eating disorders and may lead to adverse effects on the behavior. According to the team, high sugar intake led to increased levels of dopamine, a hormone responsible for regulating the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. The repeated increase in dopamine levels was found to be similar to how the body processed certain drugs and substances of abuse such as tobacco, cocaine, and morphine.

Researchers found that after long-term exposure to sugar, the body experienced a completely opposite effect as dopamine levels start to dwindle. The study showed that the bodies of the participants required an increased sugar intake in order to experience a similar rewarding effect. Researchers also noted that artificial sweeteners also produced a similar addictive effect on the animal models.

“We have also found that as well as an increased risk of weight gain, animals that maintain high sugar consumption and binge eating into adulthood may also face neurological and psychiatric consequences affecting mood and motivation,” said researcher Dr. Selena Bartlett in an article in “Like other drugs of abuse, withdrawal from chronic sucrose exposure can result in an imbalance in dopamine levels and be as difficult as going ‘cold turkey’ from them.”

The findings were published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Death by sugar: The many adverse effects of sugar addiction

It is no secret that excessive sugar intake leads to obesity and diabetes. What many do not know is that high sugar intake may raise the odds of developing a plethora of adverse medical conditions such as heart disease, liver damage, and cancer.

A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine showed that high sugar intake may increase the odds dying from cardiovascular disease, even among slimmer people. According to researchers, study participants who consumed 25 percent or more of their daily calories as sugar had a more than twofold increased risk of cardiovascular disease-related death compared with those who had lower sugar intake. The study also revealed that sugar-laden beverages such as energy drinks and sodas were the biggest sources of sugar among Americans.

Excessive sugar intake was also associated with the onset of liver damage in children, a study showed. Health experts examined 271 children and found that those who ate and drank more fructose exhibited higher uric acid levels, and were at an increased risk of developing serious and advanced form of fatty liver disease. Researchers said findings demonstrate that high sugar not only results in bulging waistline, but may also wreak havoc on the inside by damaging the liver. The results highlight the importance of parents regulating their children’s sugar intake, the study’s lead researcher said. The results appeared in the Journal of Hepatology. (See more news about addiction at

A 2013 study also found that high sugar intake elevates the risk of type-1 endometrial cancer in older women. An analysis of more than 23,000 postmenopausal women revealed that those who had the highest sugar consumption had a 74 percent increased odds of developing the disease compared with those who had relatively low intake. The findings were published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.


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