Do you ever wonder if you’re truly addicted to your daily 3 PM candy bar or those fresh baked chocolate chip cookies you can never seem to resist? According to researchers at Princeton University, that is very likely the case. Researchers found that after rats binge on sugar or sugar water their brains show the same changes on catscans as those who are addicted to cocaine and heroin. In fact, the rats suffered similar withdrawl symptoms as those detoxing from illicit drugs. The Researchers at Princeton University studying bingeing and dependency in rats have found that when the animals ingest large amounts of sugar, their brains undergo changes similar to the changes in the brains of people who abuse illegal drugs like cocaine and heroin.
Read the following excerpts from the article, Sugar is as addictive as cocaine, heroin, studies suggest featured in the New York Daily News by Rosemary Black
“Our evidence from an animal model suggests that bingeing on sugar can act in the brain in ways very similar to drugs of abuse,” says lead researcher and Princeton psychology professor Bart Hoebel.
“Animals that drank large amounts of sugar water when hungry experienced behavioral changes, too, along with signs of withdrawal and even long-lasting effects that resemble cravings.”
Some people experience powerful cravings for sweets - internal messages telling them to eat sugar even though they know it’s bad for them - says Dr. Louis Aronne, director of the Comprehensive Weight Control Center at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. “These people get strong urges to consume sweets and these cravings border on addiction,” he says. “When they eat sugar, just like when someone ingests cocaine, some people get that feeling of well-being, a rush that makes them feel good for a period of time. When the sweets are taken away, the people just don’t feel right.”
In the animals studied at Princeton, bingeing released a surge of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain. “It’s been known that drugs of abuse release or increase the levels of dopamine in that part of the brain,” Hoebel said.
After the rats’ sugar supply was withdrawn, they became anxious. Their teeth chattered and they grew unwilling to venture into the open arm of their maze. Instead, they stayed in the tunnel of the maze.
Deprived of their sugar, the rats displayed signs of withdrawal similar to the symptoms seen in people when they stop smoking, drinking alcohol, or using drugs.
Just as not everyone has the tendency to become an alcoholic or a drug addict, so not everyone is hard wired to be a sugar-holic, Aronne says. And there is certainly effective treatment for a sweet addiction, though it’s not likely to go down easily among those who like their candy and cookies.
“If people eat starch and sugar in the morning, it’s very difficult to get their behavior in control and they’ll be craving sweets all day,” Aronne says. “So we have people start out their day by eating protein and vegetables in the morning.”
Like drug abuse, sugar addiction can be very worrisome causing insulin resistance, diabetes and obesity. In the 90’s when fat-free foods became the craze food companies removed the fat but added sugar and sure enough the obesity and diabetes rates sky-rocketed causing the deadly obesity epidemic that we have today.
Healthy fat is not a bad word, sugar is! In Europe, parents used to give their children a tsp. of cod liver oil every day which is a great source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids. Omega 3’s are also known to break down insulin resistance and help reverse inflammation, metabolic syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes. Because of the Cod Liver Oil and eating unprocessed, whole foods childhood obesity was the exception not the rule. So in the early 1990’s when we got away from healthy fats and opted for over processed fat-free and low-fat white foods (i.e. bread, chips, cookies, candy, fruit juice, mashed potatoes) we created an insulin resistance crisis that led to record levels of diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and both childhood and adult onset obesity.