Tell That to Ben & Jerry –
May 3, 2020 – Maybe you’ve heard the fact that sugar activates the same pleasure centers in your brain as substances like cocaine and heroin. But while it’s understandable to feel out of control around sugar, it just doesn’t have what it takes to be considered addictive by the standards of addiction researchers or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which includes the medically accepted definition of addiction. The similarities between how the brain responds to sugar and Schedule I drugs drugs were discovered in studies performed on rats with limited access to sugar, explains Ayana Habtemariam, a dietitian and social worker based in Richmond, Virginia. “Similar neurochemical responses have been observed in humans in response to puppies and music,” she says. Beyond being misleading, the idea of sugar addiction could be harmful to a person’s overall diet and their relationship with food. So why do we insist on talking about sugar like it’s a drug? eating sugar has not been shown to consistently prompt compulsive intake; rodents won’t continue to seek it out when it’s paired with an unpleasant stimulus like a shock or a bitter taste, or when it’s not readily available. Likewise, regularly eating sugar doesn’t necessarily create an increased tolerance—meaning you need more of a substance to achieve the same effect—which is another hallmark of addiction. Although habitually eating large amounts of sugar can dull the body’s insulin response over time (that’s what causes type 2 diabetes), more research is needed to say whether regularly eating sugar creates an increased tolerance to its effects on human brains.