Why Do We Like Sweets?

Biologically, it may just be our nature.

By Jane Marion - February 2014

Why Do We Like Sweets?

Biologically, it may just be our nature.

By Jane Marion - February 2014


Ever since the discovery of sugarcane in New Guinea in 6,000 B.C., our fixation with sugar has been both a complex source of woe (we’ve been known to cry in the face of a perfect chocolate mousse) and worship. (We bow to the altar of fudge.)

So why is it that even long after we’ve eaten past the point of satiation, the taste of sweet—be it from candy, cookies, or cake—holds sway? “There’s a biological imperative of why we crave sugar and fat,” explains Diana Sugiuchi, a registered dietitian and licensed nutritionist with the Baltimore-based Nourish Family Nutrition. “They give us quick energy, which, when we were evolving as a species, was a very good thing. Our brains are biologically programmed to seek out sweets. Eating sweets activates the same receptors in your brain that morphine and heroin do, but it’s easier to get your hands on chocolate.”

Although we may be inclined to seek out sweets, not everyone develops a sweet tooth. “We can taste sweetness at an early age and detect sweetness, but that's not craving” says Benjamin Caballero of The Johns Hopkins Global Center on Childhood Obesity. "Many studies show that whether you like sweets depends on whether your parents consumed them.”

If you do indulge, moderation, not deprivation, is the key, says Sugiuchi. “Some people think you shouldn’t have any sugar at all, but I’m not the food police,” she says. “I tell my clients to build a savings account of treats into their week and budget for the times they are going to have sweets to help them have a normal relationship with sugar. Treats shouldn’t be nutritious—they should just be something you totally love.” Pass the cake, please.





You May Also Like


On The Town

Ravens Game Day Food and Drink Specials for the 2019-2020 Season

The best purple parties at local bars and restaurants.

Food & Drink

Local Flavor Live Podcast: Sharing Memories of The Dizz

Plus, adventures in napkin folding, The Helmand's 30th anniversary, and our best bites this week.

In Good Taste

Asian Street Food Eatery The Hot Dry Opens in Former Minnow Space

Chef Ben Lefenfeld discusses the importance of authenticity and his love of noodles.


In Good Taste

Cross Street Market Expected to Be Fully Leased by Spring 2020

Developer Arsh Mirmiran gives a status update on the revamped Federal Hill landmark.

In Good Taste

Chef Andy Thomas Puts His Own Spin on Pub Fare at The Tilted Row

Local industry veteran shares journey to the Middle Eastern-influenced restaurant in Bolton Hill.

Food & Drink

Review: Keystone Korner

Harbor East's new jazz and supper club, Keystone Korner, strikes the right note.

Connect With Us

Most Read


A New Production of 'The Phantom of the Opera' Is Headed to the Hippodrome: Go behind the mask with the tour's Phantom, Derrick Davis.

History of Baltimore's Bygone Synagogues Captured in New Plein Air Art Exhibit: Collection of oil paintings on view at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation through October 28.

The Book Thing Starts Next Chapter Under New Management: Here’s what to know when planning a visit to Baltimore’s free-to-all bookshop.

What the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s One-Year Agreement Means For its Musicians: After a tension-filled absence, the BSO’s 104th season will open this weekend.

The Mare Projects Connects Communities in the African Diaspora: Works from their first-ever residency program will be on display at Gallery CA.