There are some issues that can remain a struggle well into recovery. Though I have been clean from drugs and alcohol for nearly 17 years, staying off the sugar – or at least trying to consume it in reasonable amounts – is an ongoing challenge. Sugar abuse, misuse, and addiction are common; recent research suggests that one reason we crave sugar is because it provides stress relief.

Medical Daily reports on a University of California, Davis study.

The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, found that levels of the stress hormone cortisol dropped in women after two weeks of drinking sucrose, also known as table sugar. When they were asked to perform a set of math challenges, their cortisol dropped to lower levels than it did for women who were drinking aspartame.

This is nothing new. Other studies have long made the same claim.

Nearly 10 years ago, the University of Cincinnati found similar results when sugar helped laboratory rats cope with difficult situations — it also lowered their stress hormone levels. The study was presented at a meeting for the Society for Neuroscience, where researchers found the artificial sweetener saccharine provided some stress relief, but not as much as sugar could.

 The fact sugar provides itself to be more of a stress reliever than an artificial sweetener doesn’t mean consumers should be searching for anxiety relief in sugar, according to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. In fact, when a person eats to reduce stress, they should avoid foods and drinks with caffeine, high-fat concentrations, and sugar.

If stress relief is a reason you are craving sugar, look for alternative means of stress relief such as exercise, meditation, yoga, and even venting to friends. If sugar has become a full-blown addiction, seek the help of a medical professional to help you learn better eating habits.