Women are more likely to experience sugar cravings and to report that they are more willing to eat sugar-sweetened beverages, according to a new study.
The study was published Monday in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology.
“I think it’s not surprising that women are more sensitive to the aroma of sugar and that sugar can be addictive,” said Dr. Jennifer J. O’Brien, the study’s senior author and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School’s Division of Gastroenterology.
O’Brien said women have a “gendered” response to the scent of sugar, and that it’s a “very complex issue” that doesn’t always fit neatly into the stereotype of women who are cold and detached.
She said that men may also be “rewarding” themselves for their sweet tooth by taking sugar cuddles and snacking on them.
“This could be a reward for eating sugar-based foods that are high in sugar,” O’Brian said.
Opinions about sugar addiction vary widely among experts, but the researchers who conducted the new study, including Dr. Mark S. Goldstone, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Southern California, and Dr. Susan J. Harkins, associate director of the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
Both said the study has important implications for public health and for understanding why men have an intense interest in sweet foods, including candy, sweets and cakes.
Oddly, the new research found that sugar caddies who were women were more likely than men to experience cravings for sweet treats.
“Women who were sugar-addicted reported more cravings than those who weren’t,” Goldstone said.
“If women were sugar coddled, it might mean they’re also craving sugar as a reward, or because they’re being reward-driven,” he added.
Goldstone said that although the study was small, it shows that women and men can have different responses to sugar, even when they’re both sweet-scented.
“There’s this stereotype that women have this intense sugar craving, and if you’re a sugar addict, you have to have it to be a sugar cuddle,” Goldston said.
“So if you can’t get it for yourself, you may want to consider getting it for someone else.”
The study also found that the sweet-cuddle cravings reported by sugar addicts were different from the cravings experienced by nonsugar addicts.
The study didn’t look at how much sugar addicts ate or how often they cuddled, but Goldstone says that it could be that sugar addicts are more easily tempted by cuddling, which he said could explain why cuddlers are more often cuddly.
“The reason for this is, when you’re cuddled, you’re thinking about sugar and you’re looking for something to distract you,” Goldson said.
But Goldstone also said that cuddlings could also be a “signal” that sugar addiction may be going on in the person.
“I don’t know that this is a new phenomenon,” Goldstein said.
Goldsmith said that sugar-cuddling and cravings could be related, but he said there are a few reasons why people might crave sweets and desserts.
“It’s a social sign of sweetness, and it’s also a way to get something for yourself that you really can’t find anywhere else,” Goldsmith added.
O’Brian’s team found that men who reported experiencing sugar cussings were more willing than those whose cravings weren’t reported to eat or drink sugar.
The authors noted that while sugar-tasting cuddlies are a common behavior among caddie-turned-cannabis users, the current study found that some people who use marijuana are less likely to have cravings to sweets.
Goldstone says there are still “huge gaps” in the current research on the effects of sugar on people’s brains.
He said that the new work also provides some hope for those suffering from chronic disease or alcohol dependence.
“For people with alcohol dependence, sugar cudches are not necessarily a signal of addiction.
There is an interaction with other chemicals that could make people feel better,” Goldsteins said.