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Sugar addiction

Is sugar addictive?

There is a growing view that processed refined sugar is highly addictive.

In 2007, university researchers stated

"Though there are many biological commonalities between sweetened diets and drugs of abuse, the addictive potential of the former relative to the latter is currently unknown." (Lenoir, 2007)

Sweet taste activates several components of the brain reward circuitry that is affected by drugs of abuse, such as the ventral striatum, ventral pallidum, and orbitofrontal cortex.

Sucrose has been found to activate 70% of the neurons in the ventral striatum, while cocaine only actived 5%. (Cameron, 2012; Bowman, 1996)

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Rats preferred sugar over cocaine

In 2007, Magalie Lenoir (University Bordeaux, France) conducted an experient to see if rats preferred sugar over cocaine.

The rats, who were not thirsty or hungy, were given two water bottles. One had refined sugar (sucrose) or saccharin. One had cocaine.

They found that 94% of the rats preferred sugar over cocaine.

Their theory is that, sugars only used to be available in very low quantities in foods, which the brain has evolved around.

Refined sugars then create a "supranormal" reward, deep in the brain.

It has the potential to override self-control mechanisms and therefore lead to addiction.

An extension of this study, in 2012, found a 50/50 preference between sucrose and heroin, which is thought of as a more addictive drug for humans.

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