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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 suddenlythe whole pack is gone.

  • And then, we crave more. So can you be addicted to sugar?

  • Let's revisit our mouse friendthat 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.

  • Thesugar is toxicargument is mainly related to fructoseit'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 criticisedbecause 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 were 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 youre 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.

This mouse loves sugar. He loves sugar so much that even after he's eaten and should

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B1 AU fructose reward addicted pathway behavior seeking

Can You be Addicted to Sugar?

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    Adam Huang posted on 2016/01/18
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