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Causes of Sugar Cravings & How To Manage It?

If you are amongst those who crave eating something sweet after meals, do not worry, you are not alone. Sweet cravings are felt by many. Research in 2018 found that craving sweets is so common that it was wondered whether a habit-forming culture is developed.(1)

A study published in July 2017 found that 86 % of people with food cravings had thoughts about high-calorie foods especially chocolates.(2)

Causes of Sugar Cravings

Causes of Sugar Cravings

There are many reasons that can make a person crave sugar.


A stressed body releases hormones that lead to food cravings. A study found stress hormones cortisol was linked with the desire for sweet food.(3) Stress releases ghrelin, a hormone that controls appetite.(4) If a person is exposed to stress for a longer period of time, there is an increase in craving for palatable foods containing added sugar and fats.(5)

Period Cravings

It is believed that chocolate cravings and periods have links with each other.

A 2013 review found that due to the release of endorphins, people crave chocolates. These lead to the release of endorphins that help in regulating mood and feeling good.(6) However, a study found that chocolate craving during periods is found more in the United States and is not common in other countries.(7) This makes the researchers believe that sugar craving may be culture-biased.


What a person eats, how much and why can turn into a behavior. Research done in 2018 found that what a person craves is a result of classical conditioning i.e., the behavior adopted over time as they feel rewarded.(8) This means a person may crave sugar if the mind and the body have been trained to crave it. An intense craving can feel like a compulsion or be habit-forming. 2016 research done on mice found that processed foods contain refined sugar, which can be habit-forming.(9)

Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are much sweeter tasting than sugar. People if get used to the hyper-sweet taste of these sweeteners their desire for sweet food could get stronger. A study was done on a group of 20 people who gave up all sweeteners, both caloric, and non-caloric. After 2 weeks it was observed that they reported no sugar cravings.(10) This made the researchers suggest their patients go on a no sweetener challenge for 2 weeks to help them get over sugar cravings.


There is also a relationship between what you eat and how much you sleep. A study showed that people who do not get enough sleep crave food that is more sweet, salty, and starchy, maybe because these foods raise their energy levels.(11) The research done in 2017 also showed that sugary foods can interfere with the quality of sleep of a person.(12)

How to Manage Sugar Cravings?

Cravings are not harmful to health, but how a person responds to them is. There are ways a person can manage cravings when it comes to them.

Give In

Eating a slice of cake or having a piece of chocolate sometimes will never get you into trouble. It can be good for mental health. But, yes, if you do it often it’s a red or a warning signal for health. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Kidney Disease, occasional sweet indulgence is not bad unless it’s made a habit.(13)

Check the Label

Make it a habit to check the label before you pick something to curb the craving.

Look at the label for the nutritional content of the food you craving.


A study done in 2015 showed that a 15-minute walk can help in cutting down cravings.(14) Additionally, it can be beneficial for the overall health as well, unlike the sugar-laden calories.               

Take a Nap

As discussed above, lack of sleep causes sugar cravings to boost energy levels. Taking a power nap can do better work on the energy levels of a person.

Swap Your Sugars

When craving sugar, instead of filling your daily calories with unhealthy stuff try eating fresh fruits, trail mix, or dark chocolate. These are some healthy sugar alternatives.

If you feel that the daily stress is taking a toll on your overall health and making you eat in excess, it’s time to ring the bell of a professional who can give proper guidance on managing the daily stress and also on the food choices.

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:September 26, 2022

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