Sometimes Sugar Isn’t So Sweet

Sometimes Sugar Isn’t So Sweet

In a groundbreaking Princeton study, researchers have found that sugar is as addictive as drugs. Bart Hoebel and his team in the Department of Pyschology and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute have demonstrated that sugar can be an addictive substance. The sweet ingredient was shown to have gained influence over the brains of lab animals in a manner similar to many drugs of abuse.

Professor Hoebel has been studying sugar’s effect in rats for years. Until now, the rats have only met two of the three elements of addiction. They have demonstrated a behavioral pattern of increased intake and then showed signs of withdrawal. His current experiments captured craving and relapse to complete the picture.

“If bingeing on sugar is really a form of addiction, there should be long-lasting effects in the brains of sugar addicts,” Hoebel said. “Craving and relapse are critical components of addiction, and we have been able to demonstrate these behaviors in sugar-bingeing rats in a number of ways.”

“We have the first set of comprehensive studies showing the strong suggestion of sugar addiction in rats and a mechanism that might underlie it,” Hoebel said.

Lab animals, in Hoebel’s experiments, that were denied sugar for a prolonged period after learning to binge worked harder to get it when it was reintroduced to them. They consumed more sugar than they ever had before, suggesting craving and relapse behavior. Their motivation for sugar had grown. “In this case, abstinence makes the heart grow fonder,” Hoebel said.

The rats drank more alcohol than normal after their sugar supply was cut off, showing that the bingeing behavior had forged changes in brain function. These functions served as “gateways” to other paths of destructive behavior, such as increased alcohol intake. And, after receiving a dose of amphetamine normally so minimal it has no effect, they became significantly hyperactive. The increased sensitivity to the psychostimulant is a long-lasting brain effect that can be a component of addiction, Hoebel said.

Red Bull contains 27g of sugar per serving. Rockstar contains 31g of sugar per serving. BAZI only contains 16g of sugar per serving.

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