Network Blog

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New Research on Sugar Addiction

The following post is authored by Networks head online trainer Alisha Smith: We’ve all suffered from the 3pm energy slump and all too often find ourselves feeling unable to resist the temptation of a chocolate bar (or two) to make it through the rest of the day. However, while we often put down our sweet indiscretions to a lack of willpower, recently released research demonstrates the truth behind the highly addictive power of that little white crystal we all crave- sugar.

Professor Bart Hoebel from the Department of Psychology and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute has been studying sugar addiction in rats in an effort to understand its effects on humans. After years of study, Hoebel and his team have reported that the rats now exhibit all three elements of addiction- behaviour of increased intake of sugar, withdrawal symptoms upon removal of sugar and more recently, sugar craving and relapse. When the rats (who had become habitual sugar binge-eaters) were deprived of sugar for a sustained time period and then reintroduced to it, they consumed considerably higher levels of sugar than previously. This “craving and relapse behaviour” is indicative of an increased motivation for sugar, and has a similar brain response as seen in rats on cocaine and heroin. When the animals access to sugar was denied, they exhibited withdrawal symptoms: decreased levels of dopamine in the brain resulting in chattering teeth and anxiety, as witnessed in the rats reluctance to leave enclosed areas of their environment.

While the findings could have longer-term implications in areas such as eating disorders, the possibilities need to be explored further to be fully understood.

What are your thoughts? What, if any, fitness industry implications can you envisage for fitness professionals who arm themselves with this knowledge?

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Posted by: Craig | 12-Dec-2008 08:57 PM | 5 out of 5 stars

I'm wondering if someone will do a study to see if any correlation exists between the emergence of the "fat free" food movement and the rate of development of diabetes? Seems to me the timing is awfully similar...

Posted by: Anonymous | 19-Dec-2008 02:59 PM | 3 out of 5 stars

Hmm. Astute observation, Craig! All anyone has to do is review the nutritional panel information on 'fat free' foods to note the sky high sugar and salt levels to compensate for lack of taste.

Posted by: Anonymous | 07-Jul-2009 04:44 PM | 5 out of 5 stars

Hard work, but we need to educate our clients on what to eat, and it needs to be whole healthy foods, steer clear of engineered, processed refined foods, they make you fat! Just look at our population. Minimize sweets and snack on whole foods, so the chocolate bar, cake, slices etc is a rare treat. The more sugar you eat the more sugar you crave.