Sugar addiction

by | Oct 20, 2022 | Blog, Nutritional Education

What is sugar addiction?

What is the science behind a sugar addiction? When we consume sugars it increases our hunger hormone signaling in the brain, ghrelin. This impacts the normal transport of leptin, which is our satiety hormone, reducing the amount of leptin that is produced. Less leptin = less satiety. This means we are often not satisfied after consuming sugar and we find ourselves hungry minutes later causing us to consume more of that processed food.

Sugar affects our hormones

Next, sugar reduces the signaling of dopamine, our pleasure hormone, to the brain’s reward center. This decreases pleasure derived from food and makes you consume more of a certain sugary food in an attempt to reach that feeling of pleasure and satisfaction.

Sugar on labels

Unfortunately, we may not know when we are consuming added sugars as they are typically not labeled as “sugar” on processed food products. Here is a list of added sugar names to look for when purchasing food:

  • Agave syrup
  • Brown sugar
  • Corn Syrup
  • Dextrose
  • Fructose
  • Raw sugar
  • Sugar (sucrose)
  • Glucose
  • High Fructose corn syrup
  • Honey
  • Inverted sugar
  • Lactose
  • Maltose
  • Malt syrup
  • Molasses
  • Nectars
  • Maple Syrup

Recommended amount of sugar

The Recommended Daily Allowance of sugar is <10% of Daily Caloric Intake for a 2,000 kcal diet which equals about 200 calories from sugar. However, the average current consumption for Americans is 500 kcal per day from sugar, or 13.5% of their calories.

Fact: US citizens consume an average of 216 L of soda/year.

Adverse health effects

Sugar not only causes addiction, but it can also contribute to diseases related to metabolic syndrome. Hypertension, elevated triglycerides, insulin resistance, and diabetes are also adverse health effects.

75% of America’s healthcare dollars, or $150 billion, are spent on healthcare resources for morbidities associated with metabolic syndrome

Healthy Dietary Tips

Added sugar vs. natural sugar

Total sugars = Added & natural sugars. Added sugars have a separate number right below total sugars.

Natural sugars are sugars that are naturally occurring in food such as sugar found in fruit, dairy, or carbohydrates. Refined sugars are from the natural sources but can still be considered added sugars when processed. 


Incorporate plain or unsweetened versions


Whole fruits should make up the majority.

Read the label when considering dried fruit and juice.

Whole grain products

Consider the number of nutrients found in the product compared to the amount of sugar in the product.


It’s best not to restrict or avoid food with sugars. Rather try to develop a healthy eating pattern that focuses on the full nutrition profile of food and beverage choices. Allow for the occasional or celebratory treats.