Sugar is as addictive as cocaine – according to new research

Is it just us, or way anyone else a little shaken by Damon Gameau’s That Sugar Film? If you haven’t seen it, check it out on Netflix. It’s a great one to watch with your partner, the grandkids or even your next-door neighbour. With sugar free snacks on hand, of course.

While Damon makes some pretty good points about the dangers of sugar, we couldn’t help but notice that some Australian scientists are going one step further and claiming that sugar addictions should be treated as a form of drug abuse. Yes, they’re basically saying that withdrawal from chronic sugar consumption is the equivalent of going ‘cold turkey’ on hard drugs like cocaine.


Could you be addicted to sugar?

It’s a big claim, but it’s backed by a lot of weight. Experts across the globe believe that sugar affects the brain in a similar way to cocaine, so it makes sense that it should be treated as a drug addiction.

The study came from the Queensland University of Technology and found that excessive sugar consumption increases levels of dopamine in the brain. It also found that long-term consumption of sugar can eventually cause a permanent reduction in dopamine which forces people to consume more and more sugar to enjoy the same reward levels.

Professor Selena Bartlett, a neuroscientist from the university’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation explains that excess sugar consumption has “been shown to repeatedly elevate dopamine levels which control the brain’s reward and pleasure centres in a way that is similar to many drugs of abuse including tobacco, cocaine and morphine.”

As well as weight gain, Selena also reveals that high sugar consumption can also trigger neurological and psychiatric consequences that affect both mood and motivation.

Scary stuff? We think so.

Kicking the habit

photo-1488551511020-571c741f122aSo how can you kick the habit? While the study found that FDA approved drugs like varenicline (a prescription medication used to treat nicotine addiction) can work the same way when it comes to sugar cravings, you don’t necessarily need to rely on drugs. Instead, try these easy tweaks that will help minimise your sugar intake and live a healthier lifestyle.

Switch to natural sugars

If you know anything about nutrition you’ll appreciate that there’s a big difference between natural and artificial sugars. Rather than reach for a bowl of ice cream next time you get a craving, you may find you get just as much satisfaction from natural sugar sources like fruit.

Embrace dark chocolate

Who doesn’t love chocolate? But if you feel like you have a bit of an addiction why not try swapping deliciously creamy milk bars for a block of 70% cacao? You’ll only need a square or two to satisfy your cravings and enjoy the same sugar hit you get from a whole bar of Whittaker’s Coconut Block.

Phase out tea and coffee sugar

photo-1497048363455-6f3e84db1caeBeyond obvious sources like cookies and desserts there are so many ways you could be unintentionally saturating yourself with sugar. Tea and coffee are two of the biggest culprits, especially if you have several cups a day loaded with two or more teaspoons of sugar. Going cold turkey is ideal, with it usually taking around two to three weeks to get used to the taste. Trust us, once you veto sugar you’ll enjoy a whole new appreciation for good tea and coffee.

Cleanse your cupboards

From your kitchen pantry to your work desk drawer, cleaning your life of sugary temptations is one of the best ways to help break the habit. Let’s face it, if you have ice cream in the house you’re going to eat it!

Spice up your meals

Naturally sweet, spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom can help simulate the presence of sugar. From fragrant Moroccan tagines to pumpkin spice cookies, they can work wonders when it comes to balancing your blood sugar and reducing sugar cravings.

Learn to bake

Not only is sugar free baking healthy, but it’s also a fantastic opportunity to take up a new hobby or enjoy quality time with the grandkids. Looking for inspiration? Check out these mouth-watering recipes from Bite that are 100% free from refined sugars.

Stock up on magnesium and zinc

photo-1485206584136-90940d8f0cc9Biologically, sugar cravings can often be a result of magnesium deficiency. Keep your body in check by packing your diet full of foods that are high in magnesium, like dark leafy greens, raw cacao, nuts, seeds, brown rice, quinoa and avocado. Zinc deficiencies can also trigger sugar cravings so be sure to eat plenty of whole grains, pumpkin seeds and Brazil nuts.

Get essential

Not only can essential oils make your house smell amazing but they can also help to control your sugar cravings. Diffusing a blend of fennel, dill and peppermint can cleanse your palate and trick your body into thinking it doesn’t need a sugar fix.

Do you have any tried and tested ways to beat sugar cravings?