Relationship between Sugar and Addiction

1550 words (6 pages) Essay in Nutrition

23/09/19 Nutrition Reference this

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The topic of this paper is to discuss the correlation between sugar and addiction. First, I will be discussing why sugar can be addictive and what a sugar addiction can look like based on a rat study. I will reflect on my opinions and personal experiences with sugar. Lastly, I will discuss the importance of a child and youth workers role around nutrition.

When one thinks of sugar, the types of foods that comes to mind include pop, juice, chocolate and candy. However, sugar exists in almost everything we consume. It is found in everything from milk, vegetables, bread, pizza and a delicious plate of lasagna (Matis & Skellett, 2019). There are many different types of sugar that are found in various foods. According to BBC, there are five main types of sugar:

  1. Glucose, is the sugar that we bake with (table sugar)
  2.  Fructose, is found in fruits
  3. Sucrose, is extracted from the sugar cane and sugar beet
  4.  Lactose, is found in cow’s milk
  5.  High Fructose corn syrup, “where half of the glucose has been converted into fructose” (BBC, 2013).

 Sugar is not always harmful, it is actually an essential ingredient for us to consume. Sugar is delivered to the blood and gives our brain energy. BBC also describes how just the taste of sugar can give the brain a supply of energy (BBC, 2013). “Neurons need a constant supply from the bloodstream as they don’t have the ability store glucose” (BBC, 2013). Sugar can be dangerous when it is consumed in large amounts. Fructose can be especially dangerous to our bodies when it is consumed in large quantities. When fructose is consumed, it gets filtered through the liver. When excessive amounts of fructose are consumed, the liver becomes burdened and turns the sugar into fat (Matis & Skellett, 2019) (Gunnars, 2018). When sugar is consumed in an abundance on a regular basis, it can create obesity, heart disease and diabetes. So why do people consume sugar on an extreme level if it causes so many health issues? That is where addiction comes into play.

There was a study conducted where rats were taught to drink sugared water. The rats were starved for 12 hours a day. The rats were then given food and sugar water four hours after the start of their normal day. After following this schedule for 30 days, the rats were showing signs and symptoms of drug addiction. The key signs that were analyzed included, bingeing withdrawal and craving. Bingeing is associated with sensitization. The sensitization will tell the rats brain that it needs more of the sugar to have more energy. The rats presented symptoms of withdrawal to sugar when sugar was completely removed from their diet. Symptoms of withdrawal presented itself when the rats were given naloxone instead of the sugar. “When administered an opioid antagonist, a relatively high-dose of the opioid antagonist naloxone, somatic signs of withdrawal, such as teeth chattering, forepaw tremor, and head shakes are observed” (Colantuno, et al., 2002) (Avena, Rada, & Hoebel, 2009). Then the rats were given a sweetener as a replacement for the sugar and a swim test was administered. The rats that were given the sweetener showed signs of a depressive mood. Instead of swimming, the rats chose to float. Signs of aggressive behaviour presented itself in some of the rats when they were withdrawing. It was proven that the rats were affected by the sugar and definitely had a dependence. The rats showed many bodily symptoms and behaviours when the sugar was not present. It was concluded that this study may not be relatable to humans, but is proven that rats can become addicted to sugar and will choose sugar every time even though it has terrible consequences (Avena, Rada, & Hoebel, 2009). I believe that this study could be very relatable because while rats cognitive abilities are not comparable to humans, their brain chemistry is extremely similar.

As stated in my video, sugared drinks are becoming a growing concern and many children and youth are becoming obese and developing many other health concerns (Matis & Skellett, 2019). Denmark formulated a strategy to increase the taxes for sugary drinks including pop, juices and energy drink and other sports drinks. The hope was that with increasing the cost of these drinks, people would no longer be invested in these products (Matis & Skellett, 2019) (Lustig, Schmidt, & Brindis, 2012).

Child and Youth workers take on a large role when helping children with their diets. They are educating children about what foods are nutritious and how to prepare and cook these foods in a fun and healthy way. Our role is very important because many of these children do not have healthy eating habits and we can have a huge impact on them.

While researching about how sugar can be addictive and cause many health issues, it affirms my beliefs that sugar can be dangerous and toxic in high doses. Before beginning my research, I had knowledge that excessive sugar intake could have severe consequences such as diabetes. I was, however, not aware that high sugar intake could cause heart problems. I can see that sugar-sweetened drinks are a big issue and I see this in myself and my family. I would say that I am very dependent on Coca-Cola. Sometimes when I drink water, I do not feel satisfied because I did not get the sugar and carbonation.

As a parent I have observed my child become very addicted to sugar through drinks, candy and other items with added sugar. Over the years I have observed my child experience intense cravings for sugar. She would experience very high energy while consuming sugar followed by a crash. When she would crash, she presented symptoms of crying, whining, intense obsession for more sugar and total energy depletion. When she became tired, it was not because she required sleep, but rather a total loss of interest and feeling sluggish. When completing my research, I read that when children have high sugar diets, they are not interested in healthier foods and crave high fat processed sugary foods. I have observed this behaviour first hand in my daughter. I began to decrease my daughter’s sugar intake by taking out “treats” in her lunch and packing water to replace juice boxes. When coming home from school, she was offered a healthy snack. The “treat” was given to her after dinner temporarily. Eventually, the treat was removed after dinner and she is no longer expecting or craving the treat after her meal. In the last few weeks, something miraculous began to occur. My daughter’s appetite began to increase. Not only was she eating more and healthier at meal times, it was observed that her energy levels had increased. She was also sleeping better and was feeling more refreshed in the morning. My daughter presented symptoms of a dependence to sugar, but more importantly, it was proven that without sugar, she craved and enjoyed healthier foods.

 I believe that excessive sugar intake coupled with depression, can cause someone to feel more intense symptoms of depression. The person would feel a slight rise in mood when consuming the sugar due to dopamine rush, but when the sugar crash comes into effect, the depressive mood would be worsened. A healthy and well balanced diet is important when someone is experiencing mental health issues and this is why it is imperative for child and youth workers to educate children in care how to eat well. Teaching children how to prepare meals during placement, while educating them about healthy choices, is something that I thoroughly enjoyed doing. I got a real sense of reward from this because I was able to build a therapeutic relationship while cooking and the children really enjoy the one to one time with an adult who is caring. It was enjoyable to see the children have a sense of achievement and be proud that they had created a delicious meal. Teaching children in care how to cook is a big piece for children’s wellness and balance.


  • (n.d.).
  • Avena, N. M., Rada, P., & Hoebel, B. G. (2009). Evidence for Sugar Addiction: Behavioral and Neurochemical Effects of Intermittent, Excessive Sugar Intake. HHS Public Access.
  • BBC. (2013, 03 22). Science. Why is Sugar so Addictive. Retrieved from BBC:
  • Colantuno, C., Rada, P., McCarthy , J., Pattern , C., Avena, N., Chadeayne, A., & Hoebel BG. (2002). Evidence That Intermittent, Excessive Sugar Intake Causes Endgenous Opioid Dependence.
  • Gunnars, K. (2018, April 23). Is Fructose Bad for You? The Surprising Truth. Retrieved from Healthline:
  • Gunnars, K. (2018, April 23). Is Frusctose Bad for You? The Surprising Truth. Retrieved from healthline:
  • Lustig, R. H., Schmidt, L. A., & Brindis, C. D. (2012). The Toxic Truth about Sugar.
  • Matis, D., & Skellett , S. (2019, January). Sugar. London , Ontario, Canada.

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