Your Child's Brain on Cocaine Sugar

Sugar. It’s everywhere! It’s in everything! It’s almost impossible to avoid it.

Is it really a big deal to let our kids eat it?

Entire books have been written about the perils of sugar consumption including the groundbreaking book Sugar Blues by William Dufty and more recently The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes.

It’s clear that to some degree humans are hardwired to crave sugar. But, as the Amercian diet has gotten sweeter over the last few decades, some of this craving is brought about by consuming processed foods and drinks that are loaded with sugar.

Sugar hiding in kids food

Food manufacturer’s like Nestle, Kraft, Coca-Cola, Kellogg, etc. know that eating sugar has a powerful effect on our body and brain – so powerful that they’ve leveraged it to create products with allure – a combination or marketing, taste, and texture designed to use our biology against us and make us crave their products.

According to Michael Moss, investigative reporter and author of Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us:

Some of the largest companies are now using brain scans to study how we react neurologically to certain foods, especially to sugar. They’ve discovered that the brain lights up for sugar the same way it does for cocaine, and this knowledge is useful, not only in formulating foods. The world’s biggest ice cream maker, Unilever, for instance, parlayed its brain research into a brilliant marketing campaign that sells the eating of ice cream as a “scientifically proven” way to make ourselves happy.1



You  can see in the picture below that the MRI scans of a brain on cocaine are very similar to a brain on sugar, except sugar seems to light up the brain even more!

Sugar is like a drug. It makes us feel really good and leaves us wanting more. The more sugar we eat the more we crave.


Food manufacturers have also used this knowledge to target children and formulate their products such as juices, sports drinks, and snacks with the perfect sweetness profile that leaves our kids begging us for more and craving their next sugary treat!

They also mislead us with ingredients like fruit juice concentrate or beet sugar, which sounds healthier but unfortunately are basically just super concentrated fructose (fruit sugar) that’s no better than eating cane sugar.


What is the real long-term impact of sugar on the body?

According to Gary Taubes, author of The Case Against Sugar:

  • Dental cavities
  • Childhood and adult obesity
  • Type II diabetes
  • Fatty liver disease
  • Gout
  • Hypertension
  • Cancer
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Heart disease


In addition, after our children eat treats they’re blood sugar levels are high, which is followed by a severe drop in blood sugar, or sugar crash. Low blood sugar can impact our children’s ability to focus and learn.

We don’t think of these things as we’re letting our kids eat chocolate chip cookies and ice cream. It may seems harmless at the time, but allowing our children to frequently eat sugar could be setting our kids up for a lifetime of health problems.

Kids can still have dessert

So how do we manage sugar intake in the real world?

  1. Educate your child about healthy foods and model healthy eating at home using the red-, yellow-, and green-light diet! When you empower them with knowledge you can help them make healthy choices even when you’re not there! Click here to learn more
  2. Encourage children to eat fruit instead of sugary treats! Fruit may contain sugar, but it also contains vitamins, minerals, and enzymes that nourish your child’s body. Just make sure not to overdo it.
  3. Limit desserts to once per week or just special occasions. Make sugar a special treat not a daily occurrence! We don’t want to create issues by never allowing our kids to have sugar. We want to help create self-control and discipline so they can enjoy dessert without overdoing it.
  4. Make homemade treats from scratch. Then you’ll know exactly what’s in the treat your child is eating instead of letting them get extra chemicals or artificial colors and flavors that can also have a negative effect on your child’s brain and body.
  5. Throw away candy! That’s right, you don’t have to save Halloween or Easter candy! Let the kids have a few pieces and toss it!
  6. Encourage All Fun No Food Celebrations at school. Click here for ideas for how to celebrate that don’t involve sugar! Ask teachers not to give candy as rewards for good behavior.
  7. Stick to the 80/20 Rule – Eat super healthy 80% of the time so you don’t have to worry about that other 20%! It’s a more realistic way to eat in the real world. Watch the video
  8. Read labels! 74% of all packaged foods contain added sugars, so be sure to read the labels and check on the sugar content of any prepackaged foods before you buy!


Most importantly, vote with your dollars! Don’t buy sugary treat or processed foods! Show the food manufacturers that you don’t want their products!

If this is resonating with you, be sure to grab a copy of my book for even more easy ideas for helping your kids eat healthy!




(1) Moss, Michael. Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us (Kindle Locations 321-325). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.