Is Sugar Addiction Why Most New Year’s Resolutions To Diet Fail?


Despite the warm wishes and nostalgic traditions that bring family and friends together, the holidays rank as one of the most stressful times of the year. The hectic and seemingly never-ending period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day places a lot of pressure and responsibility on shoulders already overburden during the other 10 months of the year.

Perhaps the stresses most people deal with during the holiday season is one reason why so many have such a hard time saying no to all of the sweet and tantalizing treats that have become apart of every holiday party and meal.

For many, this extreme indulgence of the holiday sweet tooth is followed by pledges to reform in the way of New Year’s resolutions, which results in gym memberships, dietary cleansing books, and weight loss plans selling like a newly released iPhone.

The cycle of binge and retreat has become so predictable for many, as their collective motivation to change slowly dissolves away by February like a glazed donut left out in the rain.

Approximately 40 percent of all Americans make at least one New Year’s resolution, but only a paltry eight percent actually achieve their stated goal. Considering that pledges to lose weight rank as the most commonly made and broken resolution, perhaps this number shouldn’t come as too big a surprise.

But what if our collective failing at keeping resolutions to diet weren’t entirely our fault?

Over the last couple of years, researchers have begun to investigate the way food influence our bodies and brains, leading many to a very intriguing notion – that sugar is actually addictive. While not every scientist and health expert is quite ready to agree, a few recent studies have shown that humans crave sugar in their diets even more than we do fat.

Sugar Dependency

As researchers further delve into the question of whether certain food types can be addictive, more evidence has begun to emerge. A recent Columbia University study has shown in lab experiments with rats that overeating desirable foods – such as sugar – can cause changes to develop in the brain and cause behaviors that resemble addiction.


Some health advocates – such as neuroscientist Nicole Avena in her book, Why Diets Fail – argue that up to 11 percent of the U.S. population meets the criteria for food addiction, with most having the hardest time saying no to carbohydrates. The argument is made that most Americans have such a hard time dieting because of their addiction to sugars and carbs, and because most lack any kind of plan to beat their addiction. The authors of the book than proceed to lay out an eight-step plan to help dieters beat their addiction that has several similarities to plans that help people stop smoking or quit drinking.

Not every health expert is ready to lump sugar and carbs into the same category as nicotine and alcohol, however. While the conventional advice of moderation won’t work for everyone – says researchers at the University of Michigan’s Food and Addiction Science and Treatment Lab – some people may have to bite the sugar-free bullet and eliminate sugar entirely from their diet if they want to successfully lose weight.

Eliminating sugar entirely from a diet may seem extreme, especially considering how popular deserts and other sweet treats have become in American culture. But many health experts agree that making a permanent change – even one so drastic – offers better lasting health benefits than the constant changes to diet and lifestyle many dieters subject themselves to when attempting to lose weight.

A Dangerous Delight

Health authorities have long advocated that Americans need to reduce their dependency on sugar and the amount they consume daily. Currently, the average American consumes 22 teaspoons, or 110 grams, of sugar a day, which far exceeds the American Heart Association recommended daily guidelines. The AHA suggests men consume nine teaspoons, or 46 grams, or less of sugar daily, while women limit themselves to six teaspoons, or 30 grams, a day.

Consuming an average of 22 teaspoons of sugar daily can have serious health consequences beyond not just being able to lose weight. Studies have shown that individuals who consume high amounts of sugar daily – especially if they regularly drink soda – have an increased risk for heart disease, obesity, diabetes, tooth decay and gum disease, and even certain forms of cancer.

So while the debate continues to rage and the evidence mounts up, dieters may eventually need to confront their relationship with sugar and when enough becomes enough.

John Nickelbottom is a freelance health and science writer.

Image Credit: 1, 2.

Find more diabetes related posts:

Subscribe in a reader

Enter your email address:

Comments are closed.