Just in time for the holidays comes news that sugar may be as addictive as cocaine.
Researchers at Princeton University, studying cravings and dependencies in rats, have found that brains undergo changes similar to the changes induced by cocaine and heroin.
The rats were given large amounts of sugar-water after they had been deprived of food for 12 hours. The rats’ brains released a surge of neurotransmitter dopamine, similar to what happens when one abuses drugs.
When the sugar was withdrawn, they became anxious and withdrew, then exhibited signs of withdrawal, not unlike someone giving up smoking, alcohol, or drugs.
“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 led researcher, Princeton psychologist Bart Hoebel.
Hobel explains to US News that it wasn’t just the sugar, but the combination of deprivation that preceded a huge surge of sugar.
When scientists blocked the animal’s brain endorphine, they found withdrawl symptoms, behavioral depression, along with a lowering of the dopamine levels. The neurochemical had impacted the rats’ behavior.
Abstinance didn’t cure the rats. Instead they continued to ingest more sugar than they had before, as if they were craving it.
Hoebel adds, “The same thing is true of eating.” Humans too experience strong cravings to consume sweets even when they know they are not good for them.
“Fattening food has an impact on the regulating mechanism that breaks down your sense of fullness, makes you feel an urge to go back and get that blast of sugar and this creates the vicious cycle of weight gain that we’re going through,” he said.
The findings were to be presented Wednesday at the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology’s (ACNP)annual meeting in Nashville.
Researchers conclude that not everyone has the potential to become a sugar-holic.
So What Should You Eat?
Beginning the day with protein and vegetables in the morning will make it easier to get behavioral cravings for sugar under control than starting the day with sugar and starch, they suggest.
Sugar is transformed into blood sugar or glucose levels in the blood from foods high on the glycemic scale. Starch, white, processed foods also easily transfer into sugar.
The low-glycemic scale assigns foods a ranking of 0 to 100 based on how much, and how quickly, they cause blood sugar to rise and fall:
Meat – zero
Most Vegetables – zero
Whole mik – 10
Baked goods ie donuts, croissants pancakes – 100
Consumer reports finds that a bowl of cereal can be less healthful for your child than a glazed doughnut from Dunkin Donuts, according to a ranking of kids’ breakfast cereals issued in October.
23 of the top 27 breakfast cereals that are marketed to children in the U.S. are more than half sugar by weight and many received fair or good scores based on nutritional values.
Kellogg’s Honey Smacks and Post Golden Crisp have more than 50 percent sugar (by weight) and nine others are 40 percent sugar or more.
Cheerios, Kix, Honey Nut Cheerios, all General Mills brand cereals, and Life by Quaker Oats, contained relatively lower sugar and higher dietary fiber.
Cheerios topped the list with only 1 gram of sugar and a healthy 3 grams of fiber per serving
Several diets advocate a low glycemic diet including Atkins, South Beach and Fat Flush diets. #