Sugar has been in the spotlight for a while, it being the most likely culprit of the obesity epidemic of our time. As to how is that possible, many consider that it is because it leads to an addiction, with sugar acting as the sweet sweet drug driving our wants and needs.
A new study recently published used 7 mini pigs as a proxy to study the effects of sugar in the brain. For that purpose the researchers imaged their brains every day for 12 days after feeding them 2 liters of a sugary liquid.
What they found was that the pig’s reward system and the release of the “feel-good” neurotransmitters dopamine and opioids were stimulated similarly as drugs of abuse like cocaine, among others.
CT scans of the pigs’ brains showed an overloading and desensitization of dopamine receptors already shortly after starting with the sugar feeding, which leads to the diminished pleasurable sensation of the sugary drink over time. This dampening of responses in the brain systems related to pleasure reminds of what happens in the brains of cocaine addicts. A real sugar addiction.