You Call it a Sweet Tooth, We Call it a Sugar Addiction

Sugar, or what we would like to call “the cocaine of the food industry”, is a condiment that is found in most food products nowadays. The similarities to cocaine are striking – they’re both white powders with no nutritional value and the potential to turn anyone into a hyperactive toddler. Current research is divided on the question, “Is sugar addictive?”. When you look at this red velvet cupcake, do you want to eat it? Is that because you like eating cupcakes or is it because you are actually addicted to sugar?

This begs the question – Does liking sweets correlate to our body wanting sugar? First, let’s distinguish between ‘wanting’ and ‘liking’. ‘Wanting’ corresponds to an underlying drive or impulse towards acquiring food, whereas ‘liking’ corresponds to an emotional hedonic state towards it. For example, you may like beer (personal preference) but want water (impulse).

For our research, we assumed that sugar addiction might exist because it triggers craving and withdrawal symptoms which are also found in drug addiction. ‘Wanting’ or ‘liking’ of sugar can be distinguished into two different pathways. The two major players in the reward system are dopamine which plays a role in ‘wanting’, while the opioid system is important for ‘liking’. We will separate these two pathways by measuring each of them with a different questionnaire. We expect a positive correlation between the scores for ‘wanting’ and ‘liking’, as this could provide evidence for the addiction of sugar.

With the “sweetening of the world’s diet”, most foods available contain some type of caloric sweetener, therefore making it difficult to find products without added sugar. It is thus of utmost importance that we find out whether we can get addicted to sugar or not, because if we can, it would be like buying cocaine at a candy store.

FPN Research Practical group 7a

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