Lend Me Some Sugar, I’m an Addict!

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An interesting article on sugar and its addictive nature was just released from Princeton University and the evidence is startling.

Is sugar as addictive as cocaine?  The answer is a resounding yes, based on recent released data on sugar and addiction.

It all starts with Corn. The processing of corn yields high fructose corn syrup, the sweetener of choice for processed foods including soft drinks, soda, candy, and all the sweet things we often crave to eat. Unfortunately, HFCS is in just about every processed food items, including bread, cereals, crackers and many other food items.


Picture Credit: Mulch

It’s an addiction that won’t land you in court or an inpatient rehab. But sugar – as anyone who loves sweets can attest – can be just as habit-forming as cocaine.

Researchers at Princeton University studying binging 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.

“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.

In the studies, he explains, 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.

In the animals studied at Princeton, binging 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After the rats’ sugar supply was withdrawn, they became anxious.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. Source, NYTimesDailyNew.com

One Point of View: I know what professor Bart Hoebel is talking about. Personally, I have had cravings for candy or a desert that contains sugar and would eat a piece of pie, still wanting more. With all the packaged foods and sodas containing high fructose corn syrup, (check out the ingredients on the package, even so called healthy foods contain HFCS), how many tons of HFCS are consumed by U.S. consumers each year? No wonder we are having high incidents of diabetes and obesity in our population, even including children. Read the labels, these so-called fruit flavored juices that are given to babies and young children are loaded with sweetness coming from HFCS. Do these habits start our children off to being addicted to sugar?

Another Point of View: From the people who make high fructose corn syrup.

“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.”

High amounts of HFCS are currently used in processed foods to literally sweeten the pot.

Are we consuming too much sugar because of our lousy eating habits? What about the selling of fruit juices and soda in our school systems to raise extra money? A lot of school systems have stopped selling these products to help fight obesity. What about drinking 3, 6, or even 8 sodas a day and eating all the sweets that our bodies often crave? Think these habits will keep a small waistline? Sounds like sugar may have a hold on more people than we realize. Sugar, a sweet, addiction is harmful to our lives if not used in moderation.

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6 Responses to Lend Me Some Sugar, I’m an Addict!

  1. Becky December 18, 2008 at 10:42 am #

    The thing about HFCS is that it’s in more products than just sweets. Check the ingredients on the bread, cereal, and crackers in your pantry. It’s in salad dressings and even certain brands of tomato juice. You can eat a relatively healthy diet and still be consuming HFCS at pretty much every meal.

  2. Adam Shake December 18, 2008 at 12:12 pm #

    Becky, I just keep running into you all over the place, Steve, excellent article.

    The use of corn pervades every aspect of our society. From the “food for fuel” controversy to the doubling of childhood and adult onset diabetes rates in the last 10 years, to world grain prices.

    Corn is King, and it’s a sad fact, but just like so many other important subjects, its due in large part to lack of consumer knowledge.

    The Corn council has a new Television ad out now, you may have seen it, and the byline is “HFCS is Natural!” It is, just like Cocaine is natural. Doesn’t mean its good for you, or our children.

    There was a book written back in the 30’s (It was on my Grandfathers library shelf) Called “Sugar Blues” and it preached the addictive nature of Sugar. It listed observations by missionaries in Africa, on what happened to the culture of native societies when sugar was introduced to them. It was scary.

    If you click on my name, it will bring you to an article I wrote about Corn a while ago. Steve, you and I seem to follow the same path, often.

    Keep up the good work Steve. Good to see you out and about Becky,

    Adam

  3. Becky December 18, 2008 at 12:42 pm #

    Hi there, Adam! That Sugar Blues book sounds like a great read. I wonder if it’s still being published!

    YES! That Sweet Surprise campaign is so misleading. The sweet surprise is that due to subsidies, HFCS is so cheap that it’s invaded our pantries, giving us a palette for sweets.

    Thanks for the great post, Steve! HFCS is one of my pet peeves. (Though I’m sure you could already tell!)

  4. ChemicallyGreen.com
    chemicallygreen.com January 8, 2009 at 4:19 pm #

    @Becky: Thanks for your comments. Appreciate your information and I have a copy of Sugar Busters and it describes all the downfalls of to much sugar and corn sweetners.
    Seems like not to many people interested in good health and nutrition.

  5. ChemicallyGreen.com
    chemicallygreen.com January 8, 2009 at 4:22 pm #

    @Adam Shake: Adam, thanks for the great comments. It is always a pleasure to hear from you. I bet you might find a copy of Sugar Blues in a local library. Have a great 2009.

  6. ChemicallyGreen.com
    chemicallygreen.com January 8, 2009 at 4:24 pm #

    @Becky: Thanks again for the additional comments. Wishing you a great 2009

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