Expert Profile Menu
Apply for your Expert Profile Page
Expert Articles
Advertise with us

useNature Magazine - the Weekly Column - Tips - Info's - Stories

< Previous Article

Sugar is as Addictive as Cocaine & more Deadly

Next Article >

Article by Ron Fisher, ND

A research paper1 published in 2007 confirmed what we all know – sugar is incredibly addictive and actually more addictive than cocaine. 

Refined sugars such as sucrose and fructose were absent in the diet of most people until recently in human history (beginning with the post WW2 food processing revolution).  Today overconsumption of diets rich in sugars contributes together with other factors to drive the current obesity epidemic.  Overconsumption of sugar-dense foods or beverages is initially motivated by the pleasure of sweet taste, and can be directly compared with drug addiction.  The research was carried out on rats but can be  related to humans and showed that 94% of animals including even cocaine addicted animals preferred the sweet taste to a dose of cocaine.  The research showed that a dependence-like state appeared to be induced by the sugar-dense foods and beverages. 

Various studies2 have confirmed that hyperglycemia (high blood sugar levels) is associated with increased mortality in critically ill patients.   We know from our work with the chronically ill that overconsumption of sugar is a key factor in the development of cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, arthritis and dementia. 

As long ago as the 1970’s scientists were gathering evidence showing that over consumption of sugar was interfering with our normal processes of preventing illness3 and  was creating losses of magnesium and calcium by affecting the way renal reabsorption works.  By 1986 a link was established between diets high in sugar and chromium loss4, and the association with diabetes.   By the early 1990’s high-fructose corn syrup was replacing sucrose in many processed foods especially soft drinks. The claims that high-fructose corn syrup was more healthier than sucrose clouded the issue and delayed the production of conclusive scientific evidence for many years.  However, research has been showing that artificially introduced fructose is not necessarily any better for you than sugar – a recent study published in April 2010 showed that consuming drinks sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup was associated with the prevalence of chronic kidney disease.   

Consumption of drinks with added sugar is a big part of the problem but many foods also have added sugar, you need to read the labels.  The United States has experienced dramatic increases in soft drink consumption over the past few decades, largely due to economic and societal forces encouraging this behaviour. In 2004, Americans spent $66 billion on carbonated drinks, and the soft drink industry produced approximately 52 gallons per year of sugar-sweetened and “diet” soda – or 18 oz per day – for every man, woman, and child in the United States.  In 1942, the US annual production of carbonated drinks was approximately 2 oz per person per day, such that in the last 6 decades, per capita soda production has increased nearly 10-fold. 

For some chronically ill people it is necessary to remove all high sugar foods and drinks including fruit and fruit juices from the diet leaving vegetables as the main source of carbohydrates.  Please note that for most people the most important things to remove from your diet are the foods and drinks with artificially added sugars including those added in the forms of sucrose and fructose including high-fructose corn syrup.

A frequently cited concern is that a low carbohydrate diet has the potential for increased renal disease because of the resulting high protein content of the diet.  If the diet is balanced properly with vegetables this is never an issue.  A study published in April 20105 shows that a very low carbohydrate diet (much lower than the ones we use at Perpetual Wellbeing) does not adversely affect renal function


  1. Lenoir M, et al, 2007, Intense Sweetness Surpasses Cocaine Reward,  PLoS ONE, 2(8): e698, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000698
  2. Griesdale DE, et al, 2009, Intense insulin therapy and mortality among critically ill patients: a meta-analysis including NICE-SUGAR study data,  CMAJ, 180(8): 821-7, PMID: 19318387
  3. Sanchez, A, et al, 1973, Role of Sugars in Human Neutrophillic Phagocytosis, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 26(11):1180-1184, PMID: 4748178
  4. Kozlovsky AS, et al, 1986, Effects of diets high in simple sugars on urinary chromium loss, Metabolism, 35(6):515-8, PMID: 3713513
  5. Brinkworth GD, et al, 2010 Apr, Renal function following long-term weight loss in individuals with abdominal obesity on a very-low-carbohydrate diet vs. high-carbohydrate diet, Journal American Diet Association, 110(4):633-8, PMID: 20338292

28 Sep 2010

Article/Information supplied by Ron Fisher, ND

Disclaimer - Any general advice given in any article should not be relied upon and should not be taken as a substitute for visiting a qualified medical Doctor.