Think you’re addicted to sugar or know someone you suspect may be? Scientists say it’s possible.
New research shows high-fructose corn syrup — the sweetener found in soda and many sugary treats — can cause behavioral reactions in rats similar to those produced by such highly addictive drugs as cocaine.
These findings by addiction medicine expert Francesco Leri, a professor of at the University of Guelph, suggest food addiction could at least partly account for the global obesity epidemic.
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The results, presented at the annual meeting of the Canadian Association for Neuroscience this week, found rats fed foods containing unnaturally high concentrations of sugar, fats, and taste enhancers, such as high-fructose corn syrup, experienced notable behavioral, chemical, and neurobiological changes in their bodies and brains.
"We have evidence in laboratory animals of a shared vulnerability to develop preferences for sweet foods and for cocaine," said Leri.
"We are not rats, but our children do not think too much about the impact of sweets on their brain and behavior. There is now convincing neurobiological and behavioral evidence indicating that addiction to food is possible. Our primary objective is to discover biological predictors of vulnerability to develop excessive consumption of high fructose corn syrup."
Leri said the findings could lead to novel drug treatments for obese individuals that could help them reduce their consumption of unhealthy foods.
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