Extreme sweet tooth? Researchers say sugar can be as addictive as drugs


by Katherine Whaley / KHOU 11 News


Posted on September 10, 2012 at 10:51 AM

Updated Thursday, Sep 13 at 7:08 AM

HOUSTON—Is it hard to put away the cookies and candy? Well it might be more than just a sweet tooth. Researchers have began to study sugar addictions, and for some people, it can be very dangerous. Sugar can be as addictive as drugs.

Paige McElreath, a cheerleader at the University of Houston, seems to be the picture of health. Even with the pressures of staying lean, she battles—what she claims—is an uncontrollable sweet tooth.

“Anything baked; cookies, brownies, cake that’s the hardest for me. It’s just that feeling,” she said.

But is it more than just a feeling? Recent studies indicate that sugar rush is similar to the kind of high induced by illegal drugs.

“The areas of the brain that light up are the pleasure centers of the brain,” said Dr. Shreela Sharma, a registered dietitian at UT Health.

Dr. Sharma says processed sugars like high fructose corn syrup have made our cravings more intense.

“You are going to want to eat more of those foods simply because you are not going to feel full,” Dr. Sharma explained.

Chef German Mosquera, vegan and award-winning chef of Roots, agrees.

“So corn syrup and other sugars overwhelm your mouth and your taste buds,” Chef Mosquera said. He sweetens his treats with bananas, dates and coconut nectar.

Research shows these kinds of natural sugars keep you satisfied longer. To help, he offers a variety of all natural smoothies, juices, pastries and snacks at Roots Juice.

Trainer Cari Shoemate works with McElreath. She said regular exercise also does the trick.

“A workout is going to give you energy and you’re not going to feel like you need the sugar.”

She also recommends getting a good night’s sleep and even using yoga to rejuvenate without the sugar rush.

“Just try for a couple of weeks and you’ll feel the difference,” McElreath said.

So now, McElreath stays active and fuels up on natural treats, like Roots Juice chocolate chip cookies. She’s found success in overcoming sugar addiction.