The Sweet Spot

The power that sugar holds over the average consumer remains elusive to many consumers.


Many people find themselves hooked on sugar and the sensations it gives them.

Sarah Klosky, Staff Writer

Have you ever picked up your favorite processed sweet treat and felt that you could not have just one? The truth is, that is not by chance, and you are not to blame.  

Many companies intend for this phenomenon to occur, which makes you as a consumer a target for the underestimated grasp of sugar addiction. Food companies often put excessive amounts of sugar, salt, and fat contents into recipes, until it feels like it has reached the most perfect, couldn’t-be-more-delicious taste to a consumer. Psychoanalyst and market researcher, Howard Moskowitz, coined this process as finding the “bliss point,” stimulating a “sugar rush” that makes a consumer want more and more. 

The large quantities of sugar being within factory-produced foods endanger the natural signals of the brain. Dietitian Steph Schantz claimed that “[these foods] have the ability to override the natural ‘stop’ signal in our brain that tells when we’re full or satisfied.” With this being the goal behind the creating a “bliss point,” it confirms that addiction is the intention behind the engineering.  This description almost mimics a drug addiction, and ironically, it somewhat is. 

Excessive amounts of sugar have similar effects on the brain as some illicit substances, such as cocaine. For example, Oreos, a beloved cookie in American culture, were found to activate the same pleasurable effects in a rat’s brain  as cocaine and morphine. 

The way that sugar releases natural opioids and dopamine in one’s brain parallels way that these drugs do, making consuming excessive amounts of sugar feel like a rewarding experience for the brain.  This leads to the compulsive behaviors that are demonstrated in many addictions. The criteria for an addiction include binging, cravings, continued use despite a known risk, withdrawal, and tolerance. 

A strained relationship with processed sugar may resemble this cycle, explaining why many may feel that sugar is a basic human need, when in reality, people naturally do not crave processed sugars. People who consume excess amounts of processed sugar often find themselves feeling guilty, because of how unfulfilling it is towards the body, in comparison to proteins and fibers. Many also make seemingly out-of-reach goals to cut back because of this guilt and find themselves in a position of failure.  

For those who feel sugar is a need, and consume a large quantity in their day-to-day life, they may recognize that they need more and more overtime to satisfy their sweet tooth. With added sugars being so prevalent in society, the consumers are not the only ones who rely on sugar to feel satisfied. In fact, the food industry itself knows that removing excess salt and sugar could be detrimental to their bottom line.

Michael Moss, New York Times journalist and author of Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, mentioned that Corn flakes, for example, have a metallic taste without the additives of salt and sugar. Although excessive sugar concentrations may target the consumer’s palette, they also effectively mask the undesirable taste that comes from the true recipe. 

In addition to its addictive properties, an even more alarming part about sugar is how so widely implemented and available it is to consumers. Mass quantities of sugar are being added to products one would not expect, such as salad dressings and bread. Because of this, the average consumer likely is unaware of what they are putting into their bodies.  

Unfortunately, sugar addiction is an issue that many are uninformed about. These factors make added sugars difficult and nearly impossible to avoid. Although there are many ways to combat processed sugar cravings, such as practicing mindfulness and balancing meals, it is always important to listen to and satisfy the desires of your body. Stubborn restriction often presents mental challenges, which consumers may find more damaging than giving in and having their favorite chocolate bar. 

It is important to be mindful of the sneaky tactics of engineers and marketers within the food industry, but it is more important to enjoy life without fearing the foods you love.