This Hidden Ingredient in Your Groceries May Be as Addictive as Cocaine

stacks of chocolate chip cookiesWhen you think of the '80s or the rave scene or addictive party-hardy celebrities, you might think of cocaine. And when you think of cocaine, do you think of ... (certain brands of) ketchup, bread, salad dressings, non-diet soda, etc.? Probbbbably not. But maybe you should. At least that's what Canadian researchers from the University of Guelph who've studied high-fructose corn syrup appear to be leaning toward with their findings.

When they fed rats foods containing varying levels of HFCS, they found that the more concentrated the syrup, the harder the rats worked to obtain it. Researchers say this reaction is "similar to those produced by drugs of abuse, such as cocaine." Whoa.

It's not hard to understand, then, why they believe that foods containing HFCS are especially addictive. And given how many foods in our supply are now laden with the stuff, it's not all that surprising that they believe it has something to do with the current global obesity epidemic. The researchers believe that this, along with past studies, offer "convincing neurobiological and behavioral evidence indicating that addiction to food is possible." And they think that dovetails well with the idea that susceptibility to addiction may be a major factor in what makes people more or less prone to obesity.

Well, yeah! I believe it! In just the past several months, I've personally felt the effects and become very aware of my own sugar addiction. A self-confessed dessert lover and baker of chocolate chip cookies, I scaled back recently as part of my pre-wedding slimdown efforts, substituting stevia for sugar more and more often until I couldn't even handle real sugar. Seriously, the gelato we served at our wedding was too sweet! Kind of a bummer! 

More from The Stir: 10 Sweet & Strange Things About Sugar You Probably Don't Know

But then, of course, there were chocolate-covered macadamia nuts ... and fresh-baked banana bread ... and celebratory pastries on our honeymoon in Hawaii. Just a little bit here, a little bit there ... You don't think it'll be a big deal, but before you know it, you're hooked again, and your body's looking for the next fix. Since coming home from our honeymoon, I've tried to go back to my mostly sugar-free (meaning nothing artificial and real sugar only once in a while as a special treat) existence and it's been eerily difficult! Why?! I'm positive it has to do with the addictive nature of the sweet stuff. And that's just regular sugar ... Not processed, concentrated HFCS. Oy!

All I can say is that I hope people start reading labels and demanding change. Knowledge is power. And power, at least in this case, is being able to reduce your risk of obesity and disease ... just by saying "no" to the omnipresent processed sweetener.

What do you think about this research? Do you steer clear of HFCS?


food, sugar, desserts, eating healthy

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nonmember avatar blue

It's REALLY not hard to just eat real food.

nonmember avatar sparklemama

No offense, but where have you BEEN that past few years?! This has been known for many years now!

lalab... lalaboosh

^^^ What blue said.



I thought it was common knowledge that sugar is highly addictive. I'm in a bad spot with my sugar problem. I'm kicking it after my birthday. In my defense I make my sweets from scratch, lol!

Shandi80 Shandi80

How interesting that I just mentioned the addictive properties of HFCS the other day in a post that I commented on, and now, it shows up in an actual blog post today! Knowledge IS power! High fructose corn syrup is cheaper than sugar and acts as a preservative, why WOULDN'T money-hungry companies use this to their benefit, despite the known health risks?? Money! Let's boycott them with our dollar bills and NOT buy anything with this poisonous, addictive and unnecessary additive. Let's DEMAND change with our business and refuse to buy these products! It's not that hard. Really.

dekumama dekumama

I'm not surprised to hear this. I am an ex smoker, and giving up cigarettes was nothing compared to giving up soda and sweets. I'm done with soda finally, and have mostly cut out added sugar, but it is ROUGH. One slipup and I'm having cravings for a week.

Adrian O'Brien

Advice I stick to... never buy from the center isles of a grocery store.  The outter walls of the grocery store is where your fruit, veg, meat, and dairy are.  Though even that is now laiden with baked goods containing heavily processed junk, yogert laiden with dyes and chemical 'flavoring', and mystery meats in the deli.  Seems the only safe place to shop anymore is farmers markets.

Sunho Lee

Yet another bad thing to consider, is that the corn used in HFCS is probably from genetically modified corn plants. While there's not tons of evidence that is necessarily bad, there isn't any evidence that's it NOT, either...but there is proof that what little nutrition corn offers is quite a bit lower in GM plants.

It's really sad that corporations are SO GREEDY that they use HFCS when we all know the price of sugar. It's pretty damn cheap. I'm sure the ridiculous packaging involved in many products is much more expensive then what they save from not using sugar.

Sunho Lee

One more thing to add..I don't truly believe that addiction exists (in the way it's widely portrayed at least) and a lot of others don't either.  Addiction is just a form of laziness...I will straight up say that I have more than just experimented with many so-called addictive substances, eaten insane quanitites of sugar and HFCS laden products, drank many Super Big Gulps(tm) of Coke, endless quantities of booze, and so on and so forth...I never got addicted to any of it and now mostly eat vegetables, rice, seafood, and drink maybe once a week or less...  Ask yourself this: Just what do you think addiction really is?  And further, what will really happen if I stop using this or that substance?  And then just stop and see what happens.

Sunho Lee

In other words, take responsibility for your own life and don't hide behind these kind of labels.  Cocaine is not actually addictive, either, in fact the side-effects are severe enough to make you just stop after awhile, or you will just get bored from it.

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