Sugar alters the reward processing part of the brain in a similar way to being addicted to drugs according to a new research. With this research, sugary foods can now be explained as to why its irresistible.
Our brain’s reward system is activated whenever we find something new or have a pleasurable experience. Several brain regions communicate with each other with the help of natural brain chemicals to help us learn and repeat behaviours or patterns that improve our well-being and knowledge.
The neurotransmitter dopamine is relied heavily as the reward system explain several quintessential human experiences like sexual pleasure, falling in love, and even having a good time with friends.
Drugs and other substances hijack the brain’s reward system, hence artificially activating it. From this, addiction comes to play as the brain is told to repeat pleasure-seeking behaviour or pattern constantly.
Now comes the question, is sugar that type of substance? Does this really explain our cravings for sugary food?
Theron Randolph, a United States scientist, coined the term “food addiction” back in the 1950s to explain the compulsive consumption of certain foods, such as milk, eggs, and potatoes.
Studies exploring this subject since then have revealed mixed results, as a result, some experts argue with one another that food addiction is a bit silly.
Michael Winterdahl, associate professor from the Department of Clinical Medicine at Aarchus University in Denmark, along with his colleagues examined the effect of sugar intake on the reward system in brains of pigs in his new research.
The findings of the researchers are published in the journal Scientific Reports.
‘Major changes’ after 12 days
Seven female Göttingen minipigs were analysed by scientists on the effects of sugar intake. They examine the animals’ brain reward systems by using complex PET imaging techniques with opioid receptor agonists and dopamine receptor antagonists.
Sucrose solution was given to the minipigs for 1 hour on 12 consecutive days by the team and in 24 hours they retook the scans after the last sugar dose.
The team applied an additional PET scanning session to a subgroup of five minipigs after the first exposure to sugar.
“After just 12 days of sugar intake, we could see major changes in the brain’s dopamine and opioid systems,” reports Winterdahl.
“In fact, the opioid system, which is that part of the brain’s chemistry that is associated with well-being and pleasure, was already activated after the very first intake,” adds the study’s lead author.
The striatum, nucleus accumbens, thalamus, amygdala, cingulate cortex and prefrontal cortex are the regions of the brain that showed alterations after the sugar intake.
6th April 2020 22:47
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