One of the major problems encountered with the problem of weight loss and management is the fact that many overweight, as well as normal weight individuals use eating to relieve stress. But it is the use of sugar, specifically, that appears to turn off the brain's anxiety switch to quickly reduce the distressful feelings of emotional turmoil, such as anxiety, despair, frustration and loss.
It appears that sugar, as reported in a series of articles in the Journal Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism that
"sugar switches off activity in brain stress networks which mediate stress- induced hypothalamic- pituitary- adrenal (HPA), autonomic nervous system and emotional reactivity".
It appears that sugar stimulates specific areas of the brain to increase a sensitivity to 'central opioidergic activity' (endorphin-like neurotransmitters) to decrease the brain's response to stress, and to modify eating behaviors that continue beyond the sensation of being full. This is how individuals, when under stress,come to eat past the point of feeling stuffed. This means that sugar does indeed make you feel less stressed in difficult and emotionally taxing situations. This really does happen in the brain, and sugar is indeed a strong potion.
When individuals are stressed they feel a sense of psychic distress, their brain then signals for a increased release of cortisol (the stress hormone) from the adrenal glands which promotes the drive to eat more high refined sugar and fatty foods which in turn increase a natural opioid like chemical in the brain to cause a feeling of relaxation, and less stress.
However, there is to date, no evidence that sugar is addicting, perhaps it can cause an addictive-like response in some individuals, but it is not regarded as an addictive substance. The scientific research, upon which these articles have been reported, illustrates why understanding obesity and eating behaviors is such a complex area of study.