Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Fact or Fiction? Sugar as Addictive as Cocaine, Heroin

New York Daily News December 12, 2008

The Studies

“Evidence for Sugar Addiction: Behavioral and Neurochemical Effects of Intermittent, Excessive Sugar Intake,” Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 2008

The Hype

This story introduces Princeton University psychology professor Bart Hoebel’s tests on rats by stating in the first paragraph that “sugar—as anyone who mainlines sweets can attest—can be just as habit-forming as cocaine.”

The Subtler Truth

Hoebel’s study shows that rats fed a high-sugar diet go through neurochemical and behavioral changes, and even withdrawal symptoms, similar to those associated with nicotine and cocaine. But this newspaper article jumps the gun, suggesting that sugar addiction has been proven in humans and going so far as to have a doctor specializing in weight control give advice on how to kick the sugar habit (protein and veggies in the morning). Hoebel hasn’t proven this addiction in humans, however, and he is quick to point out that his work is more relevant to understanding eating disorders like bulimia than to curing a Dr. Pepper obsession.

The Bottom Line

Stay skeptical about sugar stories. Is there such a thing as sugar dependence? Possibly. Can we say “Sugar on Par with Smack, Crack”? That headline needs more research.

This article compliments of Popular Science

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