Potentially addictive properties of sugar-sweetened beverages among adolescents (2018)

Appetite. 2018 Oct 29;133:130-137. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2018.10.032.

Falbe J1, Thompson HR2, Patel A3, Madsen KA4.


Sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) increase risk of cardiometabolic disease. Young people consume the largest amounts of SSBs and have experienced the greatest relative gains in obesity in the past several decades. There is evidence of addictive properties of both caffeine and sugar, the primary ingredients in SSBs, but little research into such properties of SSBs in naturally occurring consumption patterns. Thus, in this exploratory study, we sought to examine potentially addictive properties of SSBs during a 3-day SSB cessation intervention in overweight and obese adolescents who typically consume ≥3 SSBs daily. Participants (n = 25) were aged 13-18 years, mostly female (72%), and African American (56%) or Hispanic (16%) with a BMI≥95th percenttile (76%). Withdrawal symptoms and SSB craving were assessed approximately 1-week apart, during both regular SSB consumption and a 3-day period of SSB cessation in which participants were instructed to drink only plain milk and water. During SSB cessation, adolescents reported increased SSB cravings and headache and decreased motivation, contentment, ability to concentrate, and overall well-being (uncorrected Ps < 0.05). After controlling the false discovery rate, changes in motivation, craving, and well-being remained significant (corrected Ps < 0.05). Using 24-hr recalls and drink journals, participants reported lower total daily consumption of sugar (-80 g) and added sugar (-16 g) (Ps < 0.001) during cessation. This study provides preliminary evidence of withdrawal symptoms and increased SSB cravings during cessation in a diverse population of overweight or obese adolescents.

KEYWORDS: Addiction; Adolescence; Craving; Obesity; Sugar-sweetened beverages; Withdrawal

PMID: 30385262

DOI: 10.1016/j.appet.2018.10.032