Sugar is obviously great to taste, but sugar can be really bad for you—especially if it is consumed in high quantities.

If you have been heading to the kitchen for a midnight snack, cannot do without a sweet after meals or have a craving for sweets such as chocolates, candies, cakes or cookies at unusual hours of the day, you may be getting dependent on sugar. (Read more: What is prediabetes?)

Added sugars are all around us, as are occasions to indulge in them Celebrations such as birthdays, weddings or other such events are routinely marked by the ceremonial cutting of cakes and having disproportionate amounts of sweets. Children are often rewarded with sweets/desserts if they do well in school or perform a task you had asked them to do. Our daily beverages such as teas, coffees, packed fruit juices, etc., also contain sugar.

Whether what we have can be termed as sugar addiction may be debatable, but there is no doubt that there is a high dependence on sugar and sugary foods in our daily lives. While sugar is a source of energy, it is also a lot of empty calories that can ultimately harm the body.

According to a study published in the Journal of Opioid Management in 2011, eating sugar releases opioids and the hormone dopamine in the body, which is responsible for human behaviours such as motivation, and even addiction. Some studies performed on animals have also suggested that overconsumption of sugar-rich foods is comparable to—or can even surpass—cocaine addiction.

Previously, fat-rich foods and foods laden with carbohydrates were at the centre of the debate on unhealthy food choices—a high sugar diet isn't far from these discussions any more.

In an article published in the journal Nutrients in 2014, the authors wrote that India's per capita sugar consumption had been increasing for years, leading to the rise in conditions such as insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

However, recent developments, the availability of greater alternative choices and a more aware consumer has meant the per capita sugar consumption has started to reduce. Statistics from a 2019 report by the National Federation of Cooperative Sugar Factories showed that India's per capita sugar consumption had dropped by two kilograms, from 20.5 kg in 2014-15 to 18.5 kg in 2017-18. (Read more: Stevia benefits and side effects)

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that the intake of "free sugars" should constitute less than 10% of your daily calories, and has been doing so since 1989. Doing this can reduce the risk of abnormal weight gain, obesity and tooth decay.

But how does one determine when you are addicted to sugar or have become heavily dependent on it? The following are some warning signs you must become aware of in a bid to control your intake of sugar in the long run.

  1. Weight gain could be a sign of too much sugar in your diet
  2. Feeling tired all day is a sign of sugar dependency
  3. Bad skin could be a sign that you are eating too much sugar
  4. Cavities are a sign of sugar dependence
  5. Sugar cravings are a sign of sugar dependence
  6. Sugar dependence may cause insomnia
  7. Role of genetic link in sugar dependence

Whether you are following a particular diet or simply used to having food made at home and yet have been experiencing unexplained weight gain, you may be consuming too much sugar.

Sugar is an ingredient in almost every processed food item out there, from beverages to candies, breads and other baked goods and even your breakfast cereal. Sugar is also high in calories, and if you haven't been exercising or have an irregular lifestyle, it can contribute towards weight gain.

Read more: 5 high calorie foods that can help you lose weight

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One of the common signs that you may be becoming dependent on sugar is if you have been feeling exhausted or tired during the day on most days. Sugar can give a high (sugar rush) that can introduce a bout of energy from time to time, but the high eventually goes away and the resulting emotion or feeling can be that of extreme exhaustion. This can result in an endless loop of craving sugar each time you want to gain some energy. It is more beneficial for the body to replace such cravings by introducing more fibre and proteins in your daily diet, which give you more nutrients to help you maintain the body's energy levels evenly as they take longer to digest in the body.

Try replacing fried and sweet snacks with fruits that have a low glycemic index—all fruits that are safe for diabetics fall in this category. For example, you could have cherries, blueberries, strawberries, pears, avocado and kiwi fruit in moderation.

Read more: Fatigue

Frequent breakouts of acne on the face, neck, back acne or other parts of the body is also a sign of having too much sugar in your diet, according to a study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

A simple blood sugar test can help you understand whether you have been consuming too much sugar of late, and the routine appearance of acne on various parts of the body is just additional evidence.

Cutting down on sugary food items and following a balanced skincare regimen can prevent future acne breakouts.

Read more: Home remedies for acne or pimples

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Dentists have for long advised people to stay away from sugary items if they want their teeth to remain healthy for a long time. Higher sugar intake has been linked with cavities, as the bacteria in the mouth produce an acid when they consume carbohydrates, which combines with saliva to produce plaque that accumulates on the teeth and leads to tooth decay.

Read more: 5 foods to make your teeth and gums stronger

There are many signs that can point towards heightened sugar craving in people. When consuming a scoop of ice cream becomes a daily habit after meals, or when you want to have cake after accomplishing a task, these are all signs of justifying your craving for sugar with a reward. The craving, thus, continues to rise and you continue to eat sugars even when you're not hungry.

There is a close link between sleeping difficulties and craving for sugar, as a sugar high can prevent anyone from going to sleep, especially if one likes to consume a piece of chocolate or something else after dinner and before bed. Disturbed sleep or insomnia are some of the telltale signs of having more sugary foods, particularly if you have been known to sleep well otherwise.

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Research has shown that a sweet tooth usually runs in the family. According to a study published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs in 2010, certain specific genes determine sweet preference, and that biological children of parents who had alcohol addiction may be at a greater risk of developing eating disorders including sugar dependence.


  1. Gulati S and Misra A. Sugar Intake, Obesity, and Diabetes in India. Nutrients. 2014 Dec; 6(12): 5955-5974.
  2. Fortuna JL. Sweet Preference, Sugar Addiction and the Familial History of Alcohol Dependence: Shared Neural Pathways and Genes. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. 2010 Jun; 42(2): 147-151. PMID: 20648910.
  3. Mysels DJ and Sullivan MA. The relationship between opioid and sugar intake: Review of evidence and clinical applications. Journal of Opioid Management. 2010 Nov-Dec; 6(6): 445-452. PMID: 21269006.
  4. Ahmed SH et al. Food Addiction. Neuroscience in the 21st Century. 1997; 2833-2857.
  5. Wiss DA et al. Sugar Addiction: From Evolution to Revolution. Frontiers in Psychiatry. 2018 Nov; 9: 545. PMID: 30464748.
  6. Lenoir M et al. Intense Sweetness Surpasses Cocaine Reward. PLOS One. 2007 Aug; 2(8): 698.
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