Excessive Consumption of Sugar: an Insatiable Drive for Reward

  • Pawel K. Olszewski
  • Erin L. Wood
  • Anica Klockars
  • Allen S. LevineEmail author
Nutrition and the Brain (J Nasser, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Nutrition and the Brain


Purpose of Review

Eating behavior provides energy to ensure proper functioning of the organism. Reward aids in seeking foods that bring energy and pleasant taste, whose consumption is safe. As evidenced by the obesity “epidemic” which largely stems from overeating, reward becomes a detriment when palatable tastants are available in unlimited quantities. This review presents recent evidence on mechanisms underlying palatability-driven excessive consumption of sugar.

Recent Findings

Appetite for sugar is propelled by changes in the morphology and activity of the reward system reminiscent of addiction. Sugar intake also shifts the hunger-satiety continuum, facilitating initiation of consumption in the absence of energy needs and maintenance of feeding despite ingestion of large food loads that endanger homeostasis.


Ingestion of excessive amounts of sugar relies on triggering mechanisms that promote addictive-like behaviors, and on overriding neuroendocrine signals that protect internal milieu.


Reward Sugar Sweet Addiction Withdrawal Adolescent 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Pawel K. Olszewski, Erin L. Wood, Anica Klockars, and Allen S. Levine declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pawel K. Olszewski
    • 1
    • 2
  • Erin L. Wood
    • 2
  • Anica Klockars
    • 2
  • Allen S. Levine
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Food Science and NutritionUniversity of MinnesotaSt. PaulUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science and EngineeringUniversity of WaikatoHamiltonNew Zealand

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