If you have a hopeless sweet tooth and your New Year resolution was to cut down on the sugar intake; this research will come as a revelation! Finally, here’s the reason why you binge on that chocolate cake more than usual, especially when you are dieting. Yes, it’s true that if you cut down on sugar, your brain craves for more the next time you have it.
A recent research has revealed that sugar addiction is for real and the addiction pattern is similar to that of cocaine and opiates in rats. Here’s a gist of this experiment: some rats were made to fast for 12 hours each day and later allowed to feed on sugar solution and their usual food. Just after a month of repeating this routine, the rats showed an increased affinity for sugar solution and consumed more than usual. They also showed signs of depression and anxiety during the fast. To cross-check this addiction pattern, some rats were exposed to opiates and cocaine. They demonstrated the same dependent behavior towards the drugs like the other group of rats did for sugar.
If you look into the neuroscience of this behaviour, sugar spikes the dopamine release in an animal just like the drugs. The neurotransmitter dopamine is known for its quick action – out of the synapse and back into the neuron in a jiffy with the help of proteins called dopamine transporters. But increased intake of sugar inhibits the action of these transporters which leads to prolonged dopamine signaling. This means more sugar will now be required for these neurons to function optimally. The more tolerant the neurons get, the higher is the sugar craving.
Of course, for now this study is limited to rats. But that day is not far when a parallel will be drawn for us humans too – when we would finally accept that sugar addiction is real and brace ourselves for de-addiction regimes!
The original publication can be accessed here.