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Hooked On Sugar?

Sugar dependence may be form of addiction

WEDNESDAY, June 26, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- Here's something that might make you a bit sour the next time you get an uncontrollable craving for something sweet: You just might be a sugar addict.

A study by Princeton University neuroscientist Bart Hoebel and colleagues finds the urge to eat sugar shares some of the physiological characteristics as drug dependence.

Hoebel's team studied rats who binged on sugar and showed signs of withdrawal -- such as "the shakes" and changes in brain chemistry -- when the scientists blocked the effects of sugar in the rats' brains.

The findings appear in the June issue of Obesity Research.

Hoebel says sugar triggers production of the brain's natural opioids.

"We think that is a key to the addiction process. The brain is getting addicted to its own opioids as it would to morphine or heroin. Drugs give a bigger effect, but it is essentially the same process," Hoebel says in a press release from Princeton University.

There's more to addiction than bingeing and withdrawal, and more studies are needed to better understand the effects of sugar, Hoebel adds. He says it isn't clear how the studies with rats and sugar might apply to humans.

More information

While the possible addictive properties of sugar are still being investigated, food addiction is a real problem. This page from Food Addicts Anonymous gives a fairly sobering view of how serious food addiction can be.

SOURCE: Princeton University news release, June 20, 2002
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