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Sugar Addiction Might be Genetic

Many people just can't keep from eating sweets. Well, one doctor claims it might not be a simple problem of will power -- it might be genetic.

Writing for The Huffington Post, Dr. Mark Hyman said new research shows some people are genetically prone to sugar and food addiction.

The science demonstrating that people can be biologically addicted to sugar in the same way we can be addicted to heroin, cocaine or nicotine is clear. Binging and addictive behaviors are eerily similar in alcoholics and sugar addicts. In fact, most recovering alcoholics often switch to another easily available drug: sugar.

There is a little switch in the brain called the dopamine receptor D2(DRD2)that must be activated for people to feel pleasure. The amino acid dopamine triggers this response. Sugar and other stimulating addictions increase dopamine in the short term.

But this is where the genetic issue comes in. Hyman says it appears that people with sugar addictions, compulsive eating and obesity have DRD2 systems that need much more stimulation to turn that switch on. In short, these people need more sugar to feel pleasure.

There are ways to combat this. In one study, naltrexone, an opioid blocker, which blocks the effects of heroin and morphine on the brain, was used in sugar addicts. The drug prevented them from getting the temporary high from sugar, and they craved less and ate less. Amphetamines also work, since they are natural appetite suppressants and reduce cravings.

Aside from taking drugs, people can also use specific nutrients to modify their brains.

Hyman writes:

I have used some of these in my practice, such as glutamine and other amino acids, with success. Regulation of hormones and neurotransmitters that affect appetite and cravings is complex and involves many factors including how quickly food spikes our blood sugar, stress, getting enough sleep, nutritional deficiencies, chemicals such as artificial sweeteners, food sensitivities which drive inflammation, and more.

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