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Pour some sugar on me — and make it fast, I’m addicted

Submitted by on Thursday, 11 December 2008 No Comment

You, the one with your hand in your co-worker’s candy jar for the 10th time today. We know it’s not your fault, but please step away. We’re warning you because we care.

And you over there, grabbing for the Godiva. We don’t mean to pry, but perhaps you should put in a call to your employee assistance program.

Turns out that all those sugar cravings that flit through our heads a hundred times daily — or maybe that’s just me — aren’t mere human weakness. They could well be full-blown addictions.

At least that’s what a bunch of rats in New Jersey say, and I’m not talking about the kind that winds up with a pair of cement boots after testifying before a grand jury.

I’m talking about bona fide laboratory rodents at Princeton University. The ones that finally have crossed the line into true addiction, according to research the university’s Department of Psychology and the Neuroscience Institute released Thursday.

It’s been a long journey from the occasional hit to full-blown candy crack heads. The rats were stymied for years at the first two signs of addiction: Binging and withdrawal.

But “if binging on sugar is really a form of addiction, there should be long-lasting effects in the brains of sugar addicts,” Professor Bart Hoebel said in an article posted on Medical News Today.

I don’t know how rats demonstrate craving — banging on vending machines in frustration when their last quarters disappear but no Snickers materialize? I’m not sure how they demonstrate relapse — sneaking into the secret Hershey Kiss stash after the lab closes for the night?

Hoebel’s well-educated in these things, though, so he knows. And he knows his rats are showing craving and relapse, the last steps to addiction.

The rats first were trained to accept super-high sugar doses – kind of like I’m doing this week with the guys and all this Christmas baking.

In one experiment, rats denied sugar consumed more than they were before when they were allowed to have it again, Hoebel told Reuters. Kind of like the guys when they found the Oreos left over from soccer snacks.

“It’s almost as if they are craving the sugar,” he said.

Sheesh, after decades of yo-yo dieting, I could have told him that.

If Hoebel’s findings hold for humans, the ramifications of his research are huge in a number of areas — treatment of eating disorders and possibly drug addiction, for example.

“We don’t know about people yet,” Hoebel said.

If he’s interested in a research subject, I’d be more than happy to donate my body to science. I’m already oh-so qualified for the work.

Copyright 2008 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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