Thursday, September 13, 2018

Is Sugar Addiction Genetic?

The Study
In the last few years, evidence suggests that sugar is addictive, similar to alcohol or tobacco. A recent publication tested the hypothesis that sugar addiction is genetic. In this investigation, 108 healthy weight adolescents were given milkshakes with varying sugar contents while undergoing a functional brain MRI. If both parents were overweight, the subject was considered at high risk of becoming overweight. If neither or just one parent was overweight, the subject was considered to be at low risk.

Fifty-three of the subjects were considered high risk and fifty-five were considered low risk. When compared to the low risk subjects, the high risk adolescents showed a significantly greater striatal, gustatory and somatosensory response to the high sugar milk shake. These areas of the brain have been shown to be associated with reward and addiction. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2018; 107:859.

Take Home Message
This study tells us several things:
1) Sugar consumption appears to fire up the regions of the brain associated with reward and addiction. The research that this may be the case has been building for some time.

2) The authors conclude that sugar may be more responsible for habitual overeating than other dietary components, such as dietary fat. I agree with them.

3) There may be a genetic component to sugar addiction.

I have observed the addictive nature of sugar for years. In most people that I have worked with, if they have a little sugar, they want more and more. The best bet is to just swear off sugar entirely. Although this is really hard at first, after a few weeks, you’ll hardly miss it.  For most of us, limiting sugar to just a few servings a week is like telling an alcoholic to just have a few drinks per week. It simply doesn’t work. 

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