Sugar as a drug

  • Serge Ahmed (2013) Sugar addiction: pushing the drug-sugar analogy to the limit. In: Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2013 Jul;16(4):434-9. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0b013e328361c8b8.
    • “Available evidence in humans shows that sugar and sweetness can induce reward and craving that are comparable in magnitude to those induced by addictive drugs. … sugar and sweet reward can not only substitute to addictive drugs, like cocaine, but can even be more rewarding and attractive. At the neurobiological level, the neural substrates of sugar and sweet reward appear to be more robust than those of cocaine …”
  • M.N. Avena et al. (2011) Sucrose sham feeding on a binge schedule releases accumbens dopamine repeatedly and eliminates the acetylcholine satiety response. In: Neuroscience. 2006; 139(3):813-20. Epub 2006 Feb 7
    • “In conclusion, the taste of sugar can increase extracellular dopamine in the nucleus accumbens without fail in animals on a dietary regimen that causes bingeing and sugar dependency. During sham feeding, the acetylcholine satiation signal is eliminated, and the animals drink more. These findings support the hypothesis that dopamine is released repeatedly in response to taste when bingeing on sweet food, and the acetylcholine satiety effect is greatly reduced by purging; this may be relevant to bulimia nervosa in humans.”
  • M.N. Avena et al. (2008) Evidence for sugar addiction: Behavioral and neurochemical effects of intermittent, excessive sugar intake. In: Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2008; 32(1): 20–39.
    • “The reviewed evidence supports the theory that, in some circumstances, intermittent access to sugar can lead to behavior and neurochemical changes that resemble the effects of a substance of abuse. According to the evidence in rats, intermittent access to sugar and chow is capable of producing a “dependency”.”
  • Paul Klenowski et al. (2016) Prolonged Consumption of Sucrose in a Binge-Like Manner, Alters the Morphology of Medium Spiny Neurons in the Nucleus Accumbens Shell. In: Front Behav Neurosci. 2016; 10: 54.
    • “In terms of long-term sucrose consumption, we observed an increase in spine density similar to amphetamine, cocaine and nicotine and opposite to the effect of morphine. However, unlike amphetamine and cocaine, but similar to nicotine, the increase of spine density on long-term exposure to sucrose is limited to the NAc shell. …  Taken together, this posits sucrose as a potent modulator of neuron morphology following prolonged heavy use, which is akin to the effects observed from drugs of abuse. … The results from this study add merit to the hypothesis that sugars such as sucrose potentially have addictive properties following long-term, binge-like consumption. Our results also have implications for the growing number of children and adolescents who maintain unhealthy eating habits (high sugar consumption and binge eating) into adulthood. In line with the increased risk of developing metabolic effects it is also possible that neurological and psychiatric consequences affecting mood and motivation may also result from these behaviors.”
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