December 11, 2008
Sugar may be as addictive as some drugs
A U.S. researcher says sugar can be an addictive substance, wielding its power over the brains of lab animals in a manner similar to many drugs.
Bart Hoebel and colleagues at the Princeton Neuroscience Institute have demonstrated in rats a behavioral pattern of increased intake and then showed signs of withdrawal.
If binging on sugar is really a form of addiction, there should be long-lasting effects in the brains of sugar addicts,Hoebel says in a statement.
Craving and relapse are critical components of addiction, and we have been able to demonstrate these behaviors in sugar-binging rats in a number of ways.
In Hoebel's experiments, the laboratory animals 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 says.
The rats drank more alcohol than normal after their sugar supply was cut off, showing that the binging behavior had forged changes in brain function, Hoebel says.
The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology in Scottsdale, Ariz.