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Interesting Findings And World Unfolding Through My Eyes.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Is Sugar More Addictive Than Cocaine?

Although quantifying substance addiction is difficult, if the answer to this question turns out to be definitive and "yes," it's likely that few people will be surprised.

If you're short on time or too lazy to read papers or even abstracts, here's the money section of a paper published on PLoS by researchers at the University of Bordeaux in France:

[W]hen rats were allowed to choose mutually-exclusively between water sweetened with saccharin-an intense calorie-free sweetener-and intravenous cocaine-a highly addictive and harmful substance-the large majority of animals (94%) preferred the sweet taste of saccharin. The preference for saccharin was not attributable to its unnatural ability to induce sweetness without calories because the same preference was also observed with sucrose, a natural sugar. Finally, the preference for saccharin was not surmountable by increasing doses of cocaine and was observed despite either cocaine intoxication, sensitization or intake escalation-the latter being a hallmark of drug addiction.
Our findings clearly demonstrate that intense sweetness can surpass cocaine reward, even in drug-sensitized and -addicted individuals.

The paper is clear and instructive, and the researchers' methods leave little apparent room for questioning their findings. Good stuff, although I prefer a nice bowl of Cap'n Crunch or some blow.

An important limitation here is that rat brains are not human brains. Specifically, humans have the ability to know that something they're putting into themselves might get them "hooked" and that this might not be good; rats, presumably, neither know not care and are driven only by the sensations produced by behaviors. So, while people stripped of cognition and free of legal and other restraints might be inclined to attack a pile of candy bars as avidly as they would a mound of cocaine, studying rodents obviously yields an incomplete picture. Since sugar is perfectly legal while cocaine is not, the threat of legal consequences can be employed as a partial deterrent to using the latter but not the former, and sugar, for all its potential cavity-inducing and waistline-bloating havoc, is unquestionably a nutrient, whereas cocaine's benefits, even were it legal, are limited at best.

Posted by Ajay :: 9:48 AM :: 0 comments

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