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This mouse loves sugar. He loves sugar so much that even after he's eaten and should
be pretty full, he crosses a metal platform that gives his feet electric shocks just to
get a sweet reward.
Sometimes our love of sugar makes us go a little overboard.
We've all been in that situation where we've had one cookie and then suddenly… the whole pack is gone.
And then… we crave more. So… can you be addicted to sugar?
Let's revisit our mouse friend – that brave little guy who risked his life just
for some sugar dissolved in water.
When he did this, a pathway was lighting up from the hunger and feeding region of his
brain to another region important for motivation and reward.
He'd developed a reward seeking habit.
Looking at this pathway is like zooming in on our larger reward-processing centre.
Researchers found that activating it increases compulsive overeating and binge eating behavior.
And they found that shutting down the pathway decreased that sugar seeking behavior.
But it didn’t stop normal healthy eating behavior, like having dinner.
For us, a reward seeking behavior is going to the fridge or pantry and getting a cookie.
We’re hardwired to love sugar because it has energy-dense calories.
And it keeps activating our brain’s reward system,
and these behaviors aren’t new to research.
In an established animal model, rats are food deprived for 12 hours and then they're given 12 hour access to sugar water and food.
As a result, they drink a lot of the sugar water, especially when it becomes first available.
After a month on this feeding schedule, the rats display behaviors similar to those seen
in drug abuse. They binge on the sugar, and show withdrawals, cravings and even depression
when it's not there. After this sugar bingeing the rats show a similar pattern of brain activity
as other rats who are morphine-dependent.
Many studies have compared sugar addiction to drug addiction, because they show similar
symptoms. Like increased tolerance, withdrawals and unsuccessful attempts to quit.
Could sugar really be as bad for us as drugs?
Some experts think so, arguing that sugar is toxic, messing with our hormones and harming our organs.
The “sugar is toxic” argument is mainly related to fructose – it's one sugar primarily
found in table sugar or high fructose corn syrup. Fructose can only be processed by our
liver, so consuming too much puts a lot of stress on it. It’s been suggested that over
time this can lead to metabolic syndrome, which in turn can lead to type 2 diabetes.
Not everyone agrees with these claims that sugar is evil. Some of the studies that link
fructose to health problems have been criticised – because in them animal or human participants
consumed way more fructose than most people would. And animals metabolise fructose differently
to humans. Studies show that mice and rats convert as much as 50% of fructose into fat,
while for humans it's more like one percent. What a fat rat.
And it's important to remember that many things, apart from sugar and drugs, can stimulate our brain's reward circuit.
Like exercise, gambling and to a lesser extent, fatty foods.
It doesn't necessarily mean we’re addicted to those things, we just find them pleasurable.
It's pretty clear that sugar is an addictive food. But even if you like eating chocolate
or donuts every day it doesn't mean you’re addicted. Very few people are.
Still, if you are finding it impossible to reduce sugar cravings, doing regular exercise,
eating dairy products and even chewing gum have been shown to help.
Whatever you do, just don't cross a metal platform that gives your feet electric shocks
to get a sweet reward. It’s not gonna end well.
If you haven't already, check out my last episode on what sugar does to our bodies.
And subscribe to BrainCraft! It's pretty sweet.
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你嗜糖如命嗎?(Can You be Addicted to Sugar?)

29436 分類 收藏
Adam Huang 發佈於 2016 年 1 月 18 日    許武忠 翻譯    Mandy Lin 審核
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