Sugar Addiction

Sugar Addiction

Authored by Pin Ng PhD

Edited by Hugh Soames

Reviewed by Michael Por, MD

What is sugar addiction?

A little sugar isn’t harmful for most people, but unfortunately, a little sugar isn’t what is consumed by most individuals. The majority of people eat more sugar than is recommended and having too much can impact one’s health negatively.

Sugar fuels our brains and is oftentimes seen as a reward1 This makes our brains want more sugar and people begin to crave it. The more sugar you eat, the more your brain believes you are rewarding it. This is a habit that is difficult to break and can lead to addiction.

Just like consuming too much alcohol or using drugs, sugar misuse can lead to addiction that affects health and well-being. Although some people scoff at sugar being addictive, the fact that over 70 million Americans are obese leads many nutrition experts to consider sugar to be one of the biggest addiction problems today.

Research on Americans and sugar consumption has found that three-quarters of the country eat too much of the sweet powder. Many of these people would be classed as having an addiction to sugar. Sugar comes in many of the foods that are eaten today. From donuts to iced coffee to soda, sugar is all around us. For the most part, sugar can be difficult to avoid.

How do you become addicted to sugar?

Sugar offers a short-term high, much like a drug, and provides a brief boost of energy. Dopamine is released when sugar is consumed causing individuals to find enjoyment eating foods containing the substance.

While the high produced by sugar is short-term, the physical effects to one’s body are long lasting. Diabetes and obesity are two of the life altering effects produced by sugar. Both can be harmful to our overall health resulting in disease and premature death.

People that experience stress, mood swings, and anxiety are at risk of sugar addiction. Due to the compulsion that is produced by eating or needing sugar, individuals can find themselves seeking out sugar regularly throughout the day. Sugar addiction is a behavioral addiction2 that changes the way we think and act.

What are the signs of sugar addiction?

It is difficult to hide a sugar addiction. While drug and alcohol abuse can be hidden from plain sight, the same cannot be said for sugar consumption. Why is it difficult to hide sugar addiction? The simplest reason it is difficult to hide is the weight gained by those who consume sugary foods and drinks.

Individuals who consume large amounts of sugary substances are often overweight. You may also see individuals consuming high levels of sugar-filled food and drink with your own eyes. They often believe there is nothing wrong with eating these items, so do not hide it from others.

In addition, individuals may constantly consume food due a number of reasons including boredom or to feel awake. Post-sugar consumption can lead them to feeling a crash. When a person is addicted to sugar, they may reach for sugar-filled foods to improve their irritability, raise low emotional levels, or improve their moods. The more sugar a person consumes to correct these problems, the more likely they are to become addicted.

Is sugar bad for me?

Sugar is not bad for you if eaten in moderation. It is a natural substance that can deliver few – if any – ill-effects if eaten responsibly. Unfortunately, it is a substance that isn’t eaten very responsibly nowadays. When eaten in large amounts, it leads to weight gain due to the number of calories contained in sugary foods. Weight gain then turns into obesity and diabetes can develop. Even if diabetes doesn’t result from weight gain, cardiac issues can develop and the strain on the body’s joints can cause life-long damage.

The vast majority of sugar that is consumed by people comes from soft drinks, food preservatives, and table sugar. However, other items that are often consumed also contain it. Sports drinks, fruit juice, cookies, cakes, chocolate, and even bread all contain various amounts of sugar that can add to addiction and weight gain.

Sugar addiction can be stopped by modifying your diet. If you realize you are addicted to sugar then using self-control to avoid sugary foods is a way to eliminate a dependency on it. However, cutting off sugar consumption cold turkey can be tough, especially if you experience a co-occurring mental health disorder. Individuals with co-occurring mental health disorders can find help from health practitioners and kick their sugar addiction for good.3

Treatments for Sugar Addiction


How to stop sugar addiction


1 – Hypnosis for Sugar Addition

If you are struggling with Sugar Addiction or sugar cravings, Hypnosis may help.  Hypnosis for sugar addiction directly targets the unconscious behavior patterns in your brain.

Hypnosis sessions or sugar addiction can be delivered in person by a hypnotherapist, or you can simply listen to a recorded hypnosis for sugar addiction audio recording.  Many people like to add hypnosis as a tool for combating their issues with sugar because of the simple and more passive approach that hypnosis offers.

The messages within the spoken session or recording do the work on your subconscious mind changing your minds thoughts and beliefs about sugar in your life and creating a new natural thought pattern that will lead you to choose healthier food options, reduce your cravings for sugary foods and in some cases have you start to move towards not even enjoying the taste that sugar brings to food.

2 – 12 Step Program for Sugar Addiction

The same Twelve Step principles that can help individuals recover from alcohol and drug addiction can help people recover from sugar addiction. People addicted to sugar behave like other addicts: They continue to eat high quantities of sugar despite the obvious adverse consequences, and they fail to quit through willpower alone. Individuals using the 12 step program for Sugar Addiction face their failure to manage sugar by asking key questions such as

  • How many times have I actually tried to quit or reduce my sugar intake and failed?
  • Have I gone out at odd hours to buy sugar snacks or candy?


Individuals who successfully use the principles of a 12 step program for sugar addiction open up to a source of help outside ourselves. For some sugar addicts, a Higher Power is spiritual and for others it can be friends, family or a sugar addiction support group.

The Twelve Steps for Sugar Addiction involve taking personal inventory to see the consequences that sugar addiction has in their lives such as:

  • mood swings affecting other family members
  • weight gain and feelings of ugliness
  • insomnia
  • cravings for candy
  • feelings of hopelessness


Quit sugar one day at a time.

“One day at a time.” is the slogan of twelve step programs and a 12 step program for sugar addiction should focus recovery into 24-hour segments which make recovery from sugar addiction manageable and achievable.

3 – Essential Oil for Sugar Addiction

The use of Essential Oils in the treatment process for sugar addiction is somewhat controversial.  Even though there is no scientific evidence to claim that essential oils help with effectively treating sugar addiction, many people report that essential oils have absolutely made a difference to them personally with altering their addiction to sugar and easing the cravings.

Essential Oils that people have reported helped them with treating their Sugar Addiction.

  • Dill oil for sugar addiction:

Dill oil – superstar in fighting sugar cravings and stimulates the brain’s satiety center so that you feel you have had enough sugar and have no need for more.  It helps you the moreish desire for sugar.

  • Fennel oil – helps balance blood sugar levels and helps suppress appetite so it helps remove the afternoon need of a sugar hit to get through the day and reduces your feelings of general hunger which your mind can confuse with a requirement or an excuse to eat sugar.
  • Ocotea oil – helps stabilize blood sugar levels and promotes feelings of fullness, again with a stable blood sugar your mind is not pushing as many thoughts about a need for some extra sugar to boost your energy and mind function.


4 – Acupuncture for Sugar Addiction

In Chinese medicine there are five basic flavors which are bitter, sour, pungent, salty and sweet.  The excessive desire for sweet foods and salty foods leads to many health issues, including it’s role in sugar addiction.4

Then treating sugar cravings with acupuncture the practitioner is generally going to target the points which treat the spleen.

Chinese medicine theory states that the sweet flavor is necessary to strengthen and balance the spleen organ but if someone is craving the sweet flavor out of the ordinary, it means that their spleen energy is weak and needs strengthening.

The Spleen, in Chinese medicine, is responsible for turning the food you eat into energy. When the Spleen is not functioning correctly, it leads to food being turned into fat instead of energy, making you feel tired.  Sometimes leading to a cycle of eating, feeling tired and then eating more sugary foods to gain energy, which again does not work and just leaves you tired again.

Many people include acupuncture in their sugar addiction treatment, and consulting an acupuncturist knowledgeable about sugar issues could work for you.

5 – Diet for Sugar Addiction

There are many factors around diet that can help with treatment of your sugar addiction.  Diet is not a one size fits all solution.  There are no specific foods that work for everyone.  It is a matter of altering your diet along solid sugar addiction treatment and cures to support your work to remove sugar as a problem in your life.

The general guidelines that support treatment for sugar addiction include:

  • Eating protein – as High Protein foods take longer to digest and keep you feeling fuller for longer.  Protein keeps your blood sugar more stable.  So it is a great start when looking for a diet to support your sugar addiction.  This is not to promote an extremely high protein diet, it is just to make sure you are eating enough protein and that you have some protein in each meal.  Eggs, nuts, meats, beans, plain yoghurt are all great choices.  Choose what suits you.


  • Fruits for sweetness – when craving something sweet try to choose fruits or sweeter vegetables rather than refined carbs and sugar.  The idea is to slowly reduce the intensity of the sugar hit and alter your taste buds to feel that sugar is too sweet for them.  This takes time and is something to work towards in your journey.


  • Drink enough water.  Some cravings stem from being slightly dehydrated.  Avoid this one by simply making sure you are having enough water on a daily basis.


6 – Supplements for Sugar Addiction

As your body is going through the chemical changes of reducing it’s reliance on sugar, supplements can sometimes support your body and mind in the process, helping relieve some of the stress and anxiety.  With supplements, they are complementary to the treatment you are receiving and you should look to what helps you personally.

Supplements for sugar addiction

  1. Chromium.
  2. Glutamine.
  3. Lipase.
  4. B Vitamins.
  5. Co Q10.
  6. Fish oil.


In addition to those above, imbalances or shortages of Calcium, zinc, chromium, and magnesium imbalances can manifest themselves as sugar cravings. It is possible your body is showing these deficiencies as sugar cravings.

Sugar Addiction Documentary

You know the issue of sugar addiction has made it into the modern consciousness when a movie about Sugar addiction makes it onto the screen and becomes virally shared.

Having a sugar addiction movie freely available on the main tv streaming services brings the issue right into the living rooms of the world.  There have now been several movies and documentaries made about sugar, the world’s addiction to it, the corporate and political powers behind “big sugar” and the health consequences of it.

8 Sugar Addiction Documentaries

  1. The Secrets of Sugar – The Fifth Estate
  2. Sugar: The Bitter Truth
  3. Sugar Coated
  4. Jamie Oliver’s Sugar Rush
  5. Sugar Crash
  6. The Truth About Sugar
  7. Fed Up
  8. That Sugar Film


There are many more and new ones hitting the screens every few months.  If you have a sugar addiction you are not alone.  Some of these films are leading to changes in legislation and building a base following to help reduce the world’s dependence on sugar and to help those with sugar addiction understand the situation and ways to get help for themselves and their families.  The rise of Sugar addiction in Children as well as the links between issues such as adhd sugar addiction are leading many to push governments to address child sugar addiction.

Progress that has been seen on the front of dealing with sugar addiction in children include:

  1. Trialing bans on sugary foods being advertised in children’s television time slots
  2. Moving sugary products out of check lines
  3. Moving sugary products out of children’s line of sight in supermarkets
  4. Banning sugar in school meals and school canteens
  5. Changing food labeling legislation to clearly show the amount of sugar
  6. Putting in place sugar maximums in certain foods.


There is a long way to go of course, though these sugar addiction documentary makers have made a dent in the world starting to take the problem more seriously.

Difference between Sugar Addiction vs Sugar Craving

The difference between Sugar addiction vs Sugar Craving falls to the general descriptive boundaries of an addiction and a craving.  An addiction is a life controlling desire, you seem to have no control over it and your behaviors in response become over the top, dangerous, deceptive or bizarre to obtain what you need.  A craving is a desire which can be managed with will power and structure and does not cause you danger and does not lead you to take dangerous actions to get what you are desiring.

An example might be a Sugar addict, may cancel dinner plans with friends to stay home and eat candy.   This may stem from concern about people realizing they have a sugar addiction, or judgement on their food choices, or just not wanting to hide their food pattern from those around them.  Someone with a sugar craving may make poor food choices at times, but it does not impact on their other areas of life.

Treatments for Sugar Cravings


Essential Oils for Sugar Cravings

To find the best Essential oil for sugar cravings, look no further.  Essential oils have been helping people curb their sugar cravings for a long while.  It is a matter of trying them out to see which ones work best for you.  Here is a list of the most common.

5 essential oils for sugar cravings

Cinnamon Bark oil – This smooth and balancing oil and leading in the sugar craving fight – helps suppress appetite,  balance blood sugar levels,  fight sugar cravings, and  minimize binging

Coriander oil – This calming oil – helps balance blood sugar levels and helps minimize sugar cravings

Ginger oil – This revitalizing oil – stimulates brain’s satiety center and helps minimize binging and overeating

Grapefruit oil – This astringent oil is an all round helper with food cravings – it helps fight sugar cravings, reduces appetite,  minimizes binging and overeating, and helps with emotional eating.

Peppermint– This clarifying oil – stimulates brain’s satiety center and helps minimize binging and overeating leaving you bright, energised and clear minded.

L-Glutamine for sugar cravings

L-glutamine is very important for digestive health. This amino acid helps heal tissue in the body, especially irritated tissue in the digestive tract which might be subject to inflammation due to diet or illness. It is a calming amino acid and is good for reducing anxiety as well as sugar and alcohol cravings.  If you are looking to reduce your sugar cravings, L-glutamine is worth a try.

l-glutamine for sugar cravings dosage


Herbal Supplements for sugar cravings

Herbs to stop sugar cravings

Many cultures have long used Herbs and Spices to treat many issues, sugar cravings or sweet tooth tendencies is one of them.  In this approach Cinnamon is the main Herb to stop sugar cravings.5

Cinnamon for Sugar Cravings – to help reduce your sugar cravings, add some cinnamon to your food.  A little cinnamon sprinkled on a banana can work, you can try cinnamon oil or even just the smell of cinnamon can help.  It really is a matter of trying it and seeing if Cinnamon help curb your sugar cravings.

Alcohol and Sugar Cravings

Alcohol generally increases sugar cravings.  If you are struggling with sugar cravings and sugar addiction, consuming alcohol will add difficulty to your dealing with your sugar problems.  Sugar and alcohol act similarly on the brain.  This leads to the link between alcohol withdrawal and sugar cravings.6

5 ways to manage Alcohol Withdrawal and Sugar Cravings

1 – Drink plenty of water – being dehydrated can lead to stronger cravings and a desire for sugary drinks.

2 – Eat – have large, filling, healthy meals.  You will feel less cravings on a full stomach.

3 – Sleep – get a good night’s sleep

4 – Rest – don’t do any strenuous exercise while withdrawing from alcohol – this will increase your need for sugar and is not a good idea to put your body under further physical stress while withdrawing from alcohol.

5 – Distract – distract yourself.  Have something to do so you are not as prone to being hounded by sugar cravings.

References: Sugar Addiction

  1. McNamara JM, Houston AI, Higginson AD. Costs of foraging predispose animals to obesity-related mortality when food is constantly abundant. PLoS ONE (2015) 10:e0141811. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0141811 PubMed Abstract | Google Scholar
  2. Williamson DA. Fifty years of behavioral/lifestyle interventions for overweight and obesity: where have we been and where are we going? Obesity (2017) 25:1867–75. doi: 10.1002/oby.21914 PubMed Abstract | Google Scholar
  3. Bello NT, Sweigart KL, Lakoski JM, Norgren R, Hajnal A. Restricted feeding with scheduled sucrose access results in an upregulation of the rat dopamine transporter. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2003;284:R1260–1268. [PubMed] []
  4. Blomqvist O, Ericson M, Johnson DH, Engel JA, Soderpalm B. Voluntary ethanol intake in the rat: effects of nicotinic acetylcholine receptor blockade or subchronic nicotine treatment. Eur J Pharmacol. 1996;314:257–267. [PubMed] []
  5. Di Chiara G. Nucleus accumbens shell and core dopamine: Differential role in behavior and addiction. Behav Brain Res. (2002) 137:75–114. 10.1016/S0166-4328(02)00286-3 [PubMed] [CrossRef] []
  6. Ungerstedt U. Adipsia and aphagia after 6-hydroxydopamine induced degeneration of the nigro-striatal dopamine system. Acta Physiol Scand Suppl. (1971) 367:95–122. [PubMed] []
  7. Yoshida M, Yokoo H, Mizoguchi K, Kawahara H, Tsuda A, Nishikawa T, et al. . Eating and drinking cause increased dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens and ventral tegmental area in the rat: measurement by in vivo microdialysis. Neurosci Lett. (1992) 139:73–6. [PubMed] []
  8. Stice E, Spoor S, Bohon C, Small DM. Relation between obesity and blunted striatal response to food is moderated by TaqIA A1 allele. Science (2008) 322:449–52. 10.1126/science.1161550 [PMC free article]
  9. Katzenschlager R, Sampaio C, Costa J, Lees A. Anticholinergics for symptomatic management of Parkinson’s disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. (2002) 2002:CD003735 10.1002/14651858.CD003735[]
  10. Zeevi D, Korem T, Zmora N, et al. Personalized nutrition by prediction of glycemic responses. Cell. 2015;163:1079–1094. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2015.11.001. [PubMed] []
  11. American Psychiatric Association  (2000) Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, 4th edn (text rev.).  Washington, DC. doi:10.1176/appi.books.9780890423349.7060
  12. Meule A, von Rezori V, Blechert J. Food addiction and bulimia nervosa. Eur Eat Disord Rev. 2014;22:331–337. doi: 10.1002/erv.2306. []
Sugar Addiction
Article Name
Sugar Addiction
Sugar offers a short-term high, much like a drug, and provides a brief boost of energy. Dopamine is released when sugar is consumed causing individuals to find enjoyment eating foods containing the substance. While the high produced by sugar is short-term, the physical effects to one’s body are long lasting.
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