Ending Addiction for Good

Sugar Addiction: It May Be Very Real

Ashley Gearhardt, a psychologist at the University of Michigan who runs the Food and Addiction Science and Treatment lab, says, “The addiction jury is still out on sugar. We still need to better understand whether people addicted to sugar experience tolerance and withdrawal in the same way they would with drugs.” Read More

I'm unclear which of the

I'm unclear which of the points in the article justify the title. In fact, one of the researcher notes that the jury is still out on addiction. I think we can all agree that 22 teaspoons a day of sugar is unhealthy, but unhealthy is different than demonstrative of addiction. The concept of food addiction (or sugar addiction) is a tricky one, and it's difficult to separate out biological/neurological processes from psychological ones (e.g., eating compulsively as a reaction to deprivation). That people say they are addicted to certain foods isn't good research.

Good Question

I used the term "May" in the title deliberately. The research is pointing in the direction that refined sugar may be addictive in the same ways that cocaine or heroin are, that the brain is co-opted in a biochemical process that changes both structure and function. The jury is still out -- but a case seems to be forming that refined sugar is addictive.

Food addiction is something different. I do not, at this point, see evidence that food itself has the addictive properties we see in chemical dependency nor do I see convincing arguments that obesity is a problem of addiction.

...but sugar...people who claim to be addicted to it show very real symptoms of craving and withdrawal from it, as they would with alcohol or other drugs...and thus I believe that the sugar/addiction link warrants further study.

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Constance Scharff, Ph.D. is the Senior Addiction Research Fellow and Director of Addiction Research at Cliffside Malibu Treatment Center.

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