Sugar Addiction: The State of the Science
Westwater, Margaret L.
Fletcher, Paul C.
European Journal of Nutrition
MetadataShow full item record
Westwater, M. L., Fletcher, P. C., & Ziauddeen, H. (2016). Sugar Addiction: The State of the Science. European Journal of Nutrition, 55 (supplement 2), 55-69. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-016-1229-6
This is the final version of the article. It first appeared from Springer via http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00394-016-1229-6
Purpose As obesity rates continue to climb, the notion that overconsumption reflects an underlying ‘food addiction’ (FA) has become increasingly influential. An increasingly popular theory is that sugar acts as an addictive agent, eliciting neurobiological changes similar to those seen in drug addiction. In this paper, we review the evidence in support of sugar addiction. Methods We reviewed the literature on food and sugar addiction and considered the evidence suggesting the addictiveness of highly processed foods, particularly those with high sugar content. We then examined the addictive potential of sugar by contrasting evidence from the animal and human neuroscience literature on drug and sugar addiction. Results We find little evidence to support sugar addiction in humans, and findings from the animal literature suggest that addiction-like behaviours, such as bingeing, occur only in the context of intermittent access to sugar. These behaviours likely arise from intermittent access to sweet tasting or highly palatable foods, not the neurochemical effects of sugar. Conclusion Given the lack of evidence supporting it, we argue against a premature incorporation of sugar addiction into the scientific literature and public policy recommendations.
sugar addiction, obesity, binge eating, animal neuroscience, drug addiction
Wellcome Trust (Senior Fellowship award)
Bernard Wolfe Health Neuroscience Fund
External DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-016-1229-6
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/256387
Attribution 4.0 International
Licence URL: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/