It's more than just a lack of willpower

There's just over a week left in January. Some fraction of those who started a diet in the new year are still keeping their resolution but a larger group has probably abandoned their more healthful diet for something they find more satisfying.

While this annual trend isn't surprising, it's bothersome to those who set that health goal but stumble along the way. Why do so many of us find the siren song of sugar irresistible?

Here are two reasons:

On some level our brains like sugar

When we eat sugar, our dopamine receptors light up in a manner that is similar to but weaker than the brain's response to heroin or other drugs. This reaction is so strong, in fact, that some researchers are beginning to use the word addiction to describe the pull of sugar on some people. And after consuming large quantities of sugar, we start to crave more sugar--setting up a cycle of events that takes more than just a little willpower to overcome.

Neuroscientist Nicole Avena explains the brain's reaction to sugar in a TED-ed lesson:

Sugar changes the texture and flavor of foods

We know sugar adds a sweet flavor and that much of that flavor can be replaced with non-nutritive sweeteners. Yet sugar contributes more than just flavor; it adds to the texture and stability of the finished food. Using terms from the lexicon of our Texture Revolution® process, we would describe the level of mouth clearing, mouth coating, and slipperiness in the mouth that sugar contributes to a beverage. In a glaze or syrup, texture attributes like surface wetting and stringiness are key to the presentation of the food as well as the eating experience. When reducing or removing sugar from a formulation, scientists need to be able to articulate the desired texture characteristics of the finished food in order to effectively manipulate those characteristics.

The Gum Gurus talk about the role of sugar in beverage texture in this video:

So while consumers struggle to shake the sugar habit, formulators can use our Texture Revolution guides for reducing sugar in beverages and glazes to create reduced sugar foods that provide a similar sensory experience.