Is Sugar Addictive? | Biolayne
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  3. Is Sugar Addictive?

Is Sugar Addictive?

Eating dependence and weight gain; no human evidence for a 'sugar-addiction' model of overweight.
Markus et al. (2017)

Sugar has been villainized with claims of addictiveness, which causes people to overeat and become obese. A study published in 2017 investigating these claims.


  • What did they test? The incidence of food addiction between different food categories and the relationships with BMI and depression.
  • What did they find? The majority of the people who experienced symptoms of food dependence reported problems for combined high-fat sweet foods and high-fat savoury foods. This was also true for participants who met the YFAS criteria for food addiction. Furthermore, those who had higher BMIs reported problems with high-fat savoury foods.
  • What does it mean for you? Don’t fear sugar, it’s not a drug! Sugar doesn’t affect the brain in the same way as classical drugs. Instead it seems energy-dense/highly palatable foods affect eating dependence to a greater degree than simply sugar by itself.

What’s the Problem?

Obesity is a global health issue that is continuing to grow. The cause(s) for this health concern is highly debated among researchers and practitioners. The obesity epidemic is multifactorial but there seems to be a tendency for people to blame specific foods or food sources. One hypothesis proposed by nutrition practitioners and researchers is the ‘sugar-addiction’ hypothesis. This hypothesis suggests that sugar is addictive similarly to other classical drugs and this is the reason for excessive food intake and what drives people to become overweight. Is it really appropriate to compare sugar to drugs like cocaine? Is it appropriate to blame one type of macronutrient for a global health crisis? This article reviews a study conducted back in 2017 to examine if sugar is addictive compared to other food categories and the relationship between eating dependence, and BMI and depression. 1 The ‘sugar-addiction’ model was developed based largely on rodent experiments 1. While rodent models provide valuable insight for various types of research, the findings are not always comparable in humans. The study we will be discussing investigated the incidence of food addiction utilizing a self-reported questionnaire known as the Yale Food Addiction Scale (YFAS). The researchers added a few additional questions to examine if food addiction symptoms were related to different food categories, specifically sugar.


To examine the relationship between food addiction symptoms and different food categories. Researchers also aimed to investigate the relationship between food addiction and BMI and depression.


The authors didn’t clearly state a hypothesis, but it seems they expected that consumption of sugary foods is strongly associated with depression symptoms and food addiction symptoms more often occur for foods containing a combination of macronutrients, not exclusively sugar.

Is Sugar Addictive?

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About the author

About Jaymes Longstrom
Jaymes Longstrom

Jaymes holds a Bachelor’s and a Master’s Degree in Exercise Science. Jaymes has coordinated and published several research studies during his graduate career at the University of South Florida, under the supervision of Dr. Bill Campbell. As a co-author of REPS, Jaymes uses his years of practical experience from coaching and competing to explain research...[Continue]

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