Is Sugar a Drug

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Is Sugar a Drug

Some studies claim to find that junk food is as addictive as drugs, but experts say that what actually determines how addictive something is, and whether an individual becomes addicted, is complex. In the most recent headline-grabbing research, a study in rats found that a brain region important for pleasure was activated more strongly when the animals were exposed to Oreos compared to cocaine. A 2011 study found that the brains of people with “food addiction” reacted to junk food the same way that the brains of people with drug addictions react to drugs, but just because junk foods and drugs may activate the same area of the brain does not mean they are addicting.

Addiction has both a biological and behavioral component. Just because there’s a commonality in the brain circuitry involved in the response to engaging in these activities, it doesn’t mean that they’re all addictive. A major key of addiction is a loss of control regarding use of a substance — such as taking more than you should, or escalating your use despite knowing the substance is harmful — as well as cravings for it. Addicted people may obsessively think about getting the substance, so much so that it dominates their life, and they experience withdrawal symptoms when they quit.

It’s hard to determine whether one substance is more, less or equally addictive compared to another, at least for people. The best way to measure the addictiveness of a substance is how hard an animal will work for it. Although many people like sweets, and would likely choose chocolate cake over fruit for dessert, this does not mean they’re addicted to sugar, but a small percentage of people may truly become addicted, experiencing the type of loss of control around food that is characteristic of addiction.

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