Can I be addicted to sugar?

Sugary foods

BHF dietitian Victoria Taylor says:

Many of the foods and drinks that people regularly consume are high in sugar. While eating a little bit of sugar is fine, on average, we are eating more than is recommended, so it’s something that we do need to be aware of.

We naturally like the taste of sweet foods and it is therefore easy for the occasional sweet or a sugary drink to become part of our daily routine without us noticing.

We often use sweets, cakes and sugary drinks as a reward, or to pick us up if we’ve had a bad day. Because of this, we can start to feel reliant on sugary foods and drinks, and some people feel as though they’ve developed an addiction.

There is little evidence to suggest that sugar is addictive in the same way as tobacco, alcohol and other drugs

In reality, while we might have developed hard-to-break habits, there is little evidence to suggest that sugar is addictive in the same way as tobacco, alcohol and other drugs.

The theory that sugar is addictive is largely based on evidence from feeding studies conducted in animals. These findings cannot be directly applied to the eating patterns of humans, which are much more complex than those of most animals.

While that’s reassuring, it can still be hard to change the way you think about your favourite sweet treats and when or how often you want to eat them. To help break your old habits and create new ones, try removing temptation and changing your environment, by sitting in a different room or going for a walk, when the urge to eat strikes.

You can still reward yourself, but consider non-food options that will be equally satisfying, such as a magazine or a trip to the cinema.

Victoria Taylor Meet the expert

Victoria Taylor is a registered dietitian with more than ten years’ experience. Her work for the NHS focused on weight management and community programmes for the prevention of cardiovascular disease. At the BHF she advises on diet and nutrition.

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