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


In Good Taste

Jerry Pellegrino Expands His Cooking School Schola

The chef chats about cooking, the Baltimore food scene, and molecular biology.

In Good Taste

Are Baltimore Delis Becoming an Endangered Species?

As new spots switch things up, a few old-school standbys continue to soldier on.

In Good Taste

Open & Shut: Little Fig Bakeshop; Blue Dog BBQ Co.; AJ’s Deli

The latest restaurant openings, closings, and recent news.


Food & Drink

The Reign of Spain

Fifty years after its opening, Restaurante Tio Pepe endures.

Food & Drink

One For The Books

When it comes to cooking, it’s all about ease for The Ivy Bookshop owners Ann and Ed Berlin.

In Good Taste

Where to Dine Out on Thanksgiving Day

Ditch the dishes and head to these restaurants on Turkey Day.

Connect With Us

Most Read


Airbnb Properties in Baltimore Will Soon Have Stricter Regulations: The city council voted to impose a hotel tax to short-term rentals in Baltimore City.

Open & Shut: Charmed Kitchen; Baby's on Fire; Stang of Siam: The latest restaurant openings, closings, and recent news.

Haute Glue By Late Artist Alice Gadzinski Opens at the Creative Alliance: Friends, family, and staff piece together a retrospective exhibit in celebration of the late artist.

Remember When George H.W. Bush Threw Out the Very First Pitch at Camden Yards?: The late 41st U.S. President hosted Queen Elizabeth and the Egyptian president at Memorial Stadium, too.

Donna's Cafe To Close in The Village of Cross Keys: The beloved restaurant serves its final meal this Sunday.