Are You Always Craving Sugary Drinks? Your Genetics May Be the Cause

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Are You Always Craving Sugary Drinks? Your Genetics May Be the Cause

Date of Content: April 3, 2024
Written by: Jess Gayo
Reviewed by: Maarit Tiirikainen, PhD



Ever wondered why some people seem to crave sugary drinks more than others? Unraveling the genetic underpinnings of sugary drink consumption sheds light on this intriguing phenomenon.

Sugary drinks encompass a broad category of beverages laden with added sugars, including sodas, fruit juices, energy drinks, and sweetened teas. These beverages contribute significantly to daily caloric intake and have been linked to various adverse health outcomes, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and dental issues. 

Recent scientific investigations suggest that individual preferences and consumption patterns for sugary drinks may be influenced by genetic factors, adding a new dimension to the understanding of dietary behaviors and their health consequences. 

By delving into the interplay between genetics and sugary drink consumption, researchers aim to figure out why some individuals are more prone to excessive intake, paving the way for personalized interventions and public health strategies. 

Why Do People Like Sugary Drinks?

Sugary drinks hold a magnetic allure for many, tempting taste buds with their sweet flavors and refreshing fizz. But what drives this widespread affinity? Scientific research offers a multifaceted understanding of why people are drawn to sugary beverages.

Firstly, our evolutionary history plays a role. Humans have an innate preference for sweetness, which likely stems from our ancestral diet rich in fruits and other natural sources of sugars. This preference was advantageous for survival, as it guided our ancestors toward energy-dense foods.

Moreover, the brain’s reward system comes into play. Consuming sugar activates the brain’s pleasure centers, triggering the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine, which create feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. This neurological response reinforces the desire to consume sugary drinks.

Cultural and environmental factors also contribute. Advertising, social norms, and availability heavily influence beverage choices. The ubiquitous presence of sugary drinks in supermarkets, restaurants, and vending machines further ingrains their appeal.

Individual differences in taste perception and genetic predispositions play a significant role. Some people may be more sensitive to sweetness or have a genetic predisposition that makes them crave sugary foods and drinks more intensely. Additionally, stress, emotional factors, and habit formation can drive consumption. Many individuals turn to sugary drinks as a source of comfort or as a habitual part of their daily routine.

Why are Sugary Drinks Unhealthy in Excessive Amounts?

Sugary drinks are deemed unhealthy due to their high sugar content and lack of nutritional value. Scientific research overwhelmingly links excessive consumption of sugary drinks to various adverse health outcomes. Here’s a breakdown of the dangers:

  1. Weight Gain and Obesity: Sugary drinks are high in calories but low in satiety, leading to excessive calorie intake without feeling full. This imbalance can contribute to weight gain and obesity, a well-established risk factor for various chronic diseases.
  2. Type 2 Diabetes: Regular consumption of sugary drinks is strongly associated with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The excessive intake of added sugars can lead to insulin resistance, impairing the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels effectively.
  3. Cardiovascular Diseases: Excessive sugar consumption, particularly in the form of sugary drinks, is linked to an elevated risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease and stroke. High sugar intake can raise blood pressure, triglyceride levels, and inflammation, all of which are detrimental to heart health.
  4. Dental Issues: Sugary drinks contribute to tooth decay and cavities due to their high sugar content. The bacteria in the mouth feed on sugars, producing acids that erode tooth enamel and promote decay.
  5. Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD): Consuming too many sugary drinks can lead to the accumulation of fat in the liver, increasing the risk of developing NAFLD, a condition associated with liver inflammation and damage.

Limiting intake and opting for healthier beverage choices is essential for maintaining overall health and well-being.

Sugary Drink Consumption

Genetic Factors Affecting Sugary Drink Consumption

A 2019 GWAS sheds light on the genetic factors influencing our beverage choices, particularly when it comes to sweet and bitter drinks. Scientists conducted a study involving around 370,000 individuals of European descent to investigate the genetic basis of beverage consumption habits.

The study found that certain genes are linked to preferences for bitter-tasting beverages like coffee, tea, and alcoholic drinks such as wine and beer. Notably, variants near genes such as GCKR, ABCG2, and AHR were associated with increased consumption of bitter beverages. 

Further analysis revealed specific genetic links to a preference for different types of beverages. For instance, genes GCKR and ADH1B were associated with bitter alcoholic drinks, while gene variant (rs55872725) in  FTO was linked to sugar-sweetened beverage(SSB) preference A variant in the SEC16B gene had a suggestive association with coffee preference.

This research suggests that genetic factors previously known to be related to alcohol and coffee consumption, as well as obesity, play a significant role in shaping our preferences for bitter and sweet beverages. Further studies are needed to explore the specific genetic links to taste perception and their influence on beverage choices.

Environmental Factors Affecting Sugary Drink Consumption

Environmental factors play a pivotal role in shaping an individual’s sugary drink consumption habits. These external influences, ranging from cultural norms to accessibility, can significantly impact beverage choices. Let’s explore some of the key environmental factors backed by scientific evidence:

  1. Advertising and Marketing: The pervasive marketing of sugary drinks can strongly influence consumer behavior, especially among children and adolescents. Studies have shown that exposure to advertisements for sugary beverages is associated with increased consumption. Advertisements often depict these drinks as refreshing, fun, and associated with positive emotions, creating a powerful appeal.
  2. Price and Accessibility: Economic factors, such as the price and availability of sugary drinks, play a crucial role in consumption patterns. Research indicates that lower prices and widespread availability of these beverages are associated with higher consumption rates. Conversely, interventions like taxation or pricing strategies that increase the cost of sugary drinks have been shown to reduce consumption.
  3. Social and Cultural Norms: Cultural practices and social norms surrounding beverage consumption can heavily influence individual choices. For example, in societies where sugary drinks are deeply ingrained in social rituals or celebrations, their consumption may be more prevalent. Likewise, peer influence and social acceptance of sugary drinks can shape consumption behaviors, especially among young people.
  4. Portion Sizes and Packaging: The size and packaging of sugary drinks can impact consumption. Larger portion sizes and bulk packaging may encourage overconsumption by promoting the idea of “value for money” or by normalizing larger servings. On the other hand, interventions that reduce portion sizes or offer smaller packaging options can help moderate intake.
  5. Availability in Schools and Workplaces: The presence of sugary drinks in environments such as schools, workplaces, and recreational facilities can influence consumption patterns, particularly among children and adolescents. Research suggests that policies restricting the availability of sugary drinks in these settings can lead to reduced consumption and improved health outcomes.
  6. Cultural Preferences and Taste: Cultural preferences for sweet beverages, shaped by factors such as cuisine and culinary traditions, can influence individual consumption habits. Additionally, taste preferences developed early in life can persist into adulthood, impacting beverage choices.
  7. Nutritional Education and Awareness: Access to accurate nutritional information and education about the health risks associated with sugary drink consumption can influence behavior. Studies have shown that increased awareness of the adverse effects of sugary drinks can lead to reduced intake.

Environmental factors play a significant role in shaping sugary drink consumption patterns. Understanding these influences is essential for developing effective public health interventions and policies aimed at promoting healthier beverage choices and reducing the burden of related chronic diseases.

Are Sugary Drinks Addictive?

Sugary drinks exhibit addictive properties due to their impact on the brain’s reward system, similar to substances like drugs and alcohol. Over time, repeated consumption can lead to tolerance, requiring larger amounts to achieve the same level of satisfaction. 

Moreover, withdrawal symptoms may occur when sugary drinks are withheld, further indicating addictive potential. Signs of sugary drink dependence or addiction may include:

  • Cravings: Persistent and intense cravings for sugary drinks, often leading to compulsive consumption.
  • Loss of Control: Difficulty controlling intake, despite efforts to cut back or stop consumption.
  • Tolerance: Needing increasing amounts of sugary drinks to experience the desired effects or satisfaction.
  • Withdrawal Symptoms: Experiencing negative physical or psychological symptoms when attempting to reduce or stop consumption, such as headaches, irritability, or mood swings.
  • Continued Use Despite Negative Consequences: Continued consumption of sugary drinks despite being aware of the associated health risks or experiencing adverse effects such as weight gain, dental issues, or fatigue.

Research indicates that individuals vary in their susceptibility to sugary drink addiction, with factors such as genetics, brain chemistry, and environmental influences playing significant roles. Recognizing the addictive nature of sugary drinks is crucial for developing effective interventions and policies aimed at reducing consumption and mitigating associated health risks.

How to Lessen Sugary Drinks Cravings

Reducing sugary drink consumption is essential for maintaining overall health and preventing various chronic diseases. Fortunately, there are several evidence-based strategies that individuals can employ to lessen their intake of these unhealthy beverages.

Opt for Water

Water is the healthiest and most hydrating beverage choice. Encouraging individuals to drink water instead of sugary drinks can significantly reduce calorie intake and promote overall well-being. Plus, drinking adequate amounts of water every day has a myriad of other health benefits including boosting your cardiovascular and immune health.

Choose Unsweetened Beverages

When selecting beverages, opt for unsweetened options such as unsweetened tea, coffee, or flavored water. These alternatives provide flavor without the added sugars found in sugary drinks. You can also add natural flavors to your water such as herbal leaves, fruits, mint leaves, and other natural options.

Read Labels

Paying attention to food and beverage labels can help individuals identify and avoid products with high sugar content. Look for terms like “sugar-sweetened,” “high-fructose corn syrup,” or “fruit juice concentrate” in the ingredients list. There are many non-sugar beverage alternatives that have a sweet taste from artificial sweeteners, and they are marketed as healthier than those sweetened with sugar, but still be wary of consuming them without proper research.

Limit Portion Sizes

If individuals choose to consume sugary drinks occasionally, encourage them to limit portion sizes. Opting for smaller servings can help reduce overall sugar intake and prevent overconsumption. Buying smaller quantities during grocery shopping can also reduce sugary drinks’ availability in your house and, thus, prevent you from drinking too much of them.

Gradual Reduction

For those accustomed to drinking sugary beverages regularly, gradual reduction may be an effective strategy. Gradually replacing sugary drinks with healthier alternatives over time can help individuals adjust to new habits without feeling deprived. Do not undergo severe diet changes without consulting a healthcare professional.

Substitute with Healthy Alternatives

Encourage individuals to substitute sugary drinks with healthier alternatives such as herbal teas, infused water, or homemade smoothies made with fresh fruits and vegetables.

Limit Availability

Limiting the availability of sugary drinks in the home, workplace, schools, and other environments can help reduce consumption. This can be achieved through policies, regulations, or simply by not purchasing these beverages.

Educational Campaigns

Public health campaigns that raise awareness about the health risks associated with sugary drink consumption can empower individuals to make healthier choices. Providing information about the negative effects of sugary drinks on weight, diabetes, dental health, and overall well-being can motivate behavior change.

Model Healthy Behaviors

Role-modeling healthy beverage choices in the family, community, and workplace can influence others to follow suit. Leading by example and demonstrating the benefits of choosing water or other healthier alternatives can inspire individuals to make similar choices.

Behavioral Support

For individuals struggling to reduce sugary drink consumption, behavioral support such as counseling or support groups may be beneficial. These interventions can help address underlying factors contributing to excessive intake and provide strategies for overcoming barriers to change.

By implementing these strategies, individuals can effectively reduce their consumption of sugary drinks and improve their overall health and well-being. It’s important to recognize that small changes can lead to significant improvements over time, and support from family, friends, and healthcare professionals can be invaluable in achieving success.

LifeDNA’s Sugary Drink Consumption

Unlock the secrets to your nutritional needs with LifeDNA’s Sugary Drink Consumption Trait Report. Our comprehensive Nutrition Report dives deep into your unique genetic profile to provide personalized insights into your sugary drink consumption tendencies. 

Understanding how your genes influence your beverage choices is crucial for optimizing your health and well-being. With LifeDNA’s scientifically-backed approach, you’ll gain valuable knowledge about your body’s preferences and predispositions, empowering you to make informed decisions about your diet.

But that’s not all – LifeDNA offers a range of other reports covering Wellness, Fitness, Sleep, Skincare and even Personality and Cognition. With nearly 200 trait reports available, you’ll uncover a wealth of insights tailored to your individual genetic makeup.

Nutrition plays a vital role in every aspect of our daily lives, impacting our energy levels, mood, and overall health. By harnessing the power of genetic testing, you can gain a deeper understanding of how your body responds to different foods and beverages, including sugary drinks.

Start your wellness journey today with LifeDNA’s personalized reports. Take the first step towards a healthier, happier you by unlocking the secrets hidden within your DNA. Don’t wait – seize the opportunity to discover what your genes can reveal about your unique nutritional needs.


  • Excessive sugary drink consumption can be attributed to several factors including genetics, environment, availability, and personal taste.
  • Genetics plays a role in our cravings for sugary drinks, according to recent research involving around 370,000 people of European descent.
  • Certain genetic factors related to alcohol, coffee consumption, and obesity play a significant role in shaping our preferences for bitter and sweet beverages.
  • Environmental factors such as advertising, price, social norms, and availability heavily influence sugary drink consumption habits.
  • Sugary drinks are linked to various health issues including obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, dental problems, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
  • Sugary drinks exhibit addictive properties, with cravings, loss of control, tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, and continued consumption despite negative consequences.
  • Strategies to lessen sugary drink consumption include opting for water, choosing unsweetened beverages, reading labels, limiting portion sizes, gradual reduction, substituting with healthy alternatives, limiting availability, educational campaigns, modeling healthy behaviors, and seeking behavioral support.



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*Understanding your genetics can offer valuable insights into your well-being, but it is not deterministic. Your traits can be influenced by the complex interplay involving nature, lifestyle, family history, and others.

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