It isn't uncommon for recovering alcoholics to crave sugar. In recovery, many alcoholics find that they have a new and unquenchable urge for the sweet stuff.
A study shows the link between consumption of alcohol and a desire for sweets. In this study, it was found that there is evidence that links the consumption of sweets and alcohol between humans and animals, and their preferences for such. The study shows that preference for sugar can be genetic, but that there is a link between a preference for sugar as well as alcohol. Alcoholic subjects preferred the sweeter sucrose solutions that were given. This can point to a familial subtype of alcoholism.
A separate study done and presented at the 9th ISBRA Congress showed support for an association between sweets and a genetic predisposition for alcoholism and a family history. In the study 61 percent of individuals with a positive family history of alcoholism preferred sugar solutions. This is extremely high compared to the 19 percent of individuals who preferred sugar solutions and who reported no known negative family or genetic histories of alcoholism.
Another interesting fact found in another study by Colditz et al. (1991) is that consumption of sweets may possibly suppress alcohol intake. This study showed a negative correlation between sugar intake and alcohol consumption. It is known that high carbohydrate consumption may actually create an effect of enhanced serotonin synthesis, which in turn can suppress alcohol intake. However, the same was found to be true with non-carbohydrate sugar substitutes, which have also been shown to suppress voluntary alcohol intake. It may have something to do with the way that sweets stimulate the endogenous opioid system, causing the brain to feel satisfied.
Issues From Increased Sugar Intake
Many people in recovery report having a craving for sweets during their first phase, and often, over the course of their lives. Could it be true that sweets can actually curb the craving for alcohol? If so, is sugar a healthier substitute? Within moderation, and within reason, it seems the intake of sugar and high-carbohydrate sugar foods such as fruits, can help to curb cravings.
However, one wrong does not make a right. Sugar addiction is a real thing in many people, addicts and non-addicts alike. The impact of sugar on the brain has to do with dopamine. Substances like sugar, alcohol and opiates release dopamine into the brain, which is associated with the pleasure and reward center of the brain. Dopamine is associated with addiction due to the extra dopamine released into the brain. As the brain adjusts to the constant flood of dopamine, the constant high that results can become dangerous and addictive over time.
In essence, it is shown that sweets are a known side effect of quitting alcohol - but certainly not one of the worst ones. With moderation and attention to intake, a little sugar can be pleasurable and healthful if taken in the right amounts. The most optimal way is to stick to fruits and other natural sugars like honey, and to generally enjoy other sweets minimally.