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Is Sugar Addictive?

By Michelle May, M.D.

jelly beansIn my article called “Is Sugar Addiction Real?” I shared a lively email debate about whether sugar is addictive. The topic of sugar addiction is controversial, and in my opinion, counter-productive.

In a press release about a new study, “Eating addiction”, rather than “food addiction”, better captures addictive-like eating behavior, one of the researchers concluded that “There is currently very little evidence to support the idea that any ingredient, food item, additive or combination of ingredients has addictive properties.” They propose a shift to “eating addiction” rather than “food addiction.”

Check out the debate then continue the conversation by sharing your comments here.



About the author

Michelle May, M.D. is a recovered yo-yo dieter and the founder of the Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Programs and Training. She is the award-winning author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: A Mindful Eating Program to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle , winner of seven publishing awards. She is also the author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat with Diabetes, Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat for Binge Eating, and Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating for Bariatric Surgery. Michelle shares her compelling message and constructive keynotes with audiences around the country, offers workplace wellness programs, and has trained and licensed hundreds of health professionals to facilitate Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Programs worldwide. She has been featured on Dr. Oz, the Discovery Health Channel, and Oprah Radio, and quoted in Diabetic Living, Fitness, Health, Huffington Post, Parents, Self, USA Weekend, US News & World Report, WebMD and many others. Her personal success story was published in Chicken Soup for the Dieter's Soul. Michelle cherishes her relationships with her husband, Owen and grown children, Tyler and Elyse. She regularly enjoys practicing yoga and hiking near her home in Phoenix, Arizona. She and Owen, a professional chef, share a passion for gourmet and healthful cooking, wine tasting, photography, and traveling.


  1. Nique says:

    I have read your books & am very grateful for what I learned & what I have been able to resolve / relearn.
    My disagreement is to not think of addiction for sugar. I agree many people think they are addicted when their experience tells me they are not.
    I got convinced after having surgery where the hospital put me on D5W when I had specifically requested to not give it to me. I didn’t know they ignored my instructions until I felt awful, had unbeilivable cravings & asked them about it. They confirmed. It took me over 6 months to get off the sugar. An alcooholic having 1 drink is often dealing with the same issue. I don’t profess to know what it does to my body but I know how I feel. I choose to remove any sugar in my diet many years ago. I do NOT miss it. I do NOT feel deprived. When I am sugar free I feel fantastic. As soon as sugar is in my food as in unlabelled food or by people who think a little bit won’t hurt & it’s in my head, I feel it very quickly. I feel sleepy & gett such incredible cravings I have a very tough time to get off it . I feel generally awful. Please comment on any such experience. Thanks. Nique

  2. Thank you for sharing your experience Nique. The difference between what you are describing and telling people that they are addicted to sugar is that you are aware of the effects on your body, you don’t like how it makes you feel, you CHOOSE not to have it, and you don’t miss it. That is what learning the skills of mindful eating is all about! People are able to make observations and discoveries about themselves and make decisions based on their experience. In other words, an inside-out approach.

    That is completely different from someone who struggles with the eat-repent-repeat cycle being told that they are addicted to sugar and must stop eating it. That is an outside-in approach that rarely leads to sustainable change.

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