Can you become addicted to sugar?

Specific foodstuffs, nutrients or food additives do not cause addiction in the sense of substance-based addiction.

A lot of attention has been given to this question in recent years. The assumption is that sugar causes physical dependency and plays a role in eating disorders, and may therefore play a role in connection with overweight.

The most recent reports, including those under the remit of the EU, which have looked at the overall research on this subject conclude that there is no evidence that specific foodstuffs, nutrients or additives cause addiction in the sense of substance addiction.

Eating palatable food affects the brain’s reward system. The brain releases dopamine, a substance that causes sensations of well-being and pleasure. However, the release of dopamine caused by palatable food, sex, social interaction and intensive training, is far less than that caused by intoxicating substances. Dopamine release caused by intoxicating substances is between a hundred and a thousand times greater.

Psychological aspects also appear to be involved in the need for palatable food, because eating can alleviate depression and negative feelings. Therefore there are strong indications that some highly-predisposed people can develop a form of addiction-like eating behaviour to palatable food.

For further information please read the consensus opinion on food addiction from NeuroFAST on

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