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Sugar addiction: is it real? A narrative review
  1. James J DiNicolantonio1,
  2. James H O’Keefe1,
  3. William L Wilson2
  1. 1 Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute, Kansas, USA
  2. 2 Lahey Health and the Wilson Institute of Neurobiology, Burlington, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr James J DiNicolantonio, Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute, Kansas City, USA; jjdinicol{at}


In animal studies, sugar has been found to produce more symptoms than is required to be considered an addictive substance. Animal data has shown significant overlap between the consumption of added sugars and drug-like effects, including bingeing, craving, tolerance, withdrawal, cross-sensitisation, cross-tolerance, cross-dependence, reward and opioid effects. Sugar addiction seems to be dependence to the natural endogenous opioids that get released upon sugar intake. In both animals and humans, the evidence in the literature shows substantial parallels and overlap between drugs of abuse and sugar, from the standpoint of brain neurochemistry as well as behaviour.

  • sugar

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  • Contributors JJD performed the literature search and wrote the initial manuscript. JHO’K and WLW reviewed, edited and wrote sections of the final manuscript.

  • Competing interests JJD is the author of The Salt Fix and operates the website WLW sells a supplement that contains both L-glutamine and chromium picolinate. JHO’K owns and operates a nutraceutical company.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.