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How Sugar Addiction Works

Why is it so hard to pass up a piece of cake or pastry?
Why is it so hard to pass up a piece of cake or pastry?
RAYES/Digital Vision/Thinkstock

How many times have you heard someone lament, "Why is everything that tastes good bad for you?!" This is often said as the person is stuffing a doughnut into his or her mouth or grabbing another piece of chocolate. Alas, many sweet treats aren't great for your health, especially when consumed in large quantities. The culprit is often their sugar content. Eating large amounts of sugar can lead to obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

In 2015, the World Health Organization released a report stating that added sugars shouldn't comprise more than 10 percent of your daily calories, and less than 5 percent would be best. This is easier said than done. In the U.S., the U.K. and Spain, added sugars make up a whopping 16 percent of the average citizen's daily caloric intake. Children's diets are even worse; in Portugal, for example, added sugars comprise 25 percent of kids' daily calories [sources: FDA, United Nations].

Things didn't used to be this way. Research shows added-sugar consumption in America shot up more than 30 percent between 1977 and 2010 [source: Obesity Society]. Added sugars are those sugars that don't naturally occur in foods, but are added when foods are being processed, often to make a low-fat product taste better. The problem is we often don't realize we're consuming extra sugar. Sure, if we eat a candy bar we realize it has a lot of sugar, but added sugars are also found in seemingly healthy, or at least not-unhealthy, foods such as pasta sauce. Some experts claim our consumption of more sugar over the last few decades has caused many people to become addicted to the sweet stuff. Others say that's not true -- sugar isn't an addictive substance. But no one can argue that some folks have an awfully hard time passing on dessert, or limiting themselves to just one cookie. Let's see what experts say may be the reason behind this lack of resistance.