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Sweet Tooth Cravings: Why Are We Addicted To Sugar?

Medically reviewed by Mae Charisse Antalan, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Jason Inocencio · Updated Aug 30, 2022

    Sweet Tooth Cravings: Why Are We Addicted To Sugar?

    For a significant number of people, no meal is complete without dessert. A slice of cake, a scoop of ice cream, or even a cookie. These options help cap our idea of what a meal is. We claim to have a “sweet tooth,” an affinity and love for dessert in all its forms. Unfortunately, taking in too much sugar, in the long run, can prove to be unhealthy. How do you deal with sweet tooth cravings?

    The Sweet Tooth

    Sugar has calories, thus it is a chemical signal for nutrients that can be detected and readily used for energy by animals. Sugar is also a signal for safety because sweet items are rarely poisonous.

    Since all human beings have a sense of taste, everyone has the capacity to enjoy sweet things. The perception of sweet, however, differs across individuals and groups. An entire range of variables can affect those as well as behavior and preferences toward sweets.

    To increase our understanding of these individual differences, studies of sweet perception have been conducted. Genetic studies are expanding our knowledge even more.

    How to Deal with Sweet Tooth Cravings?

    On the flip side, too many sweets and desserts are not good for you. Obesity, diabetes, and heart disease are just three of the diseases that await anyone who consumes too much sugar. The rise of added sugar intake and a subsequent rise in obesity and type 2 diabetes has shown a close parallel. Observational studies have found connections between sugar-sweetened beverages and long-term weight gain and type 2 diabetes-related metabolic conditions.

    Sugar has been found to produce more symptoms than is required to be considered an addictive substance in animal studies. Animal data has shown significant overlap between the consumption of added sugars and drug-like effects.

    These effects include bingeing, craving, tolerance, withdrawal, cross-sensitization, cross-tolerance, cross-dependence, reward, and opioid effects.

    Cutting Sugar

    The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that both adults and children keep their intake of sugar to less than 10% of daily calories. In other words, people should consume no more than 12 teaspoons of sugar daily. It’s therefore important to be aware of where sugar can be found in your diet so that you can subsequently reduce it.

    Here are some tips to cut sugar consumption in your diet:

    • Read food labels – Learn other names for sugar such as corn syrup, molasses, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, dextrose, and malt sugar. Fruits, milk, and plain yogurt contain natural sugar. Food and beverages like soda and coffee often include sugar as well.
    • Investigate the sugar content of your favorite food – Lessen the amount of added sugar in your food. Look out for sweeteners.
    • Buy and eat fewer processed foods – Consume more whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Experiment with new recipes.
    • Change your environment – If you have easy access to candy, consider trading it in for fruit. Shake things up and avoid places where you can be tempted with sugar in food.

    Key Takeaways

    Consuming and loving sugar is natural in humans. In nature, hardly anything sweet has ever been shown to be poisonous or harmful to people. Many people proudly proclaim that they have a sweet tooth and love desserts with sugar.

    However, excessive intake of sugar can lead to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other serious health conditions. Awareness of how much sugar you consume can help lessen the chances of any health scare.

    Read food labels, learn the sugar content in your food, eat fewer processed foods, and change your environment. Your long-term health will thank you for it.

    For more on Healthy Eating, click here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Mae Charisse Antalan, MD

    General Practitioner

    Written by Jason Inocencio · Updated Aug 30, 2022

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