A new study by the University of Aarhus in Denmark sheds light on the controversial idea of ”food addiction,” indicating that it may exist similarly to other addictions seeking pleasure. Instead of using laboratory rats, the study used pigs that received sugar water to determine the effects that sugar had on their brain. The brains of the animals took less than two weeks to undergo changes related to the opioid and dopamine systems.
Food addiction is the idea that one can become addicted to eating food, particularly bad food, of the type that tends to send it in a spiral to the field of obesity and chronic health conditions such as type 2 diabetes. Self-proclaimed addicts to food they report that they cannot resist the call of food, sometimes they do everything possible to acquire their favorite snacks. Sugary products tend to be particularly attractive to some food addicts who may report that they drink large amounts of soda or eat sugary products daily.
Despite these reports, many health experts have been skeptical about whether food addiction is real. Researchers at the University of Aarhus set out to determine this by studying the brains of pigs that received two liters of sugar water to drink every day for 12 days.
The pigs underwent brain scans at the beginning of the experiment, as well as after the first day of sugar intake and again after day 12 had ended. When looking at the data, the study found that sugar had a “clear” influence on the brain’s reward system, one described as similar to the effects that addictive drugs have on the brain.
One of the main authors of the study, Michael Winterdahl, of the Department of Clinical Medicine at the University of Aarhus, explained that the effects of sugar on the brain’s opioid system were apparent after the first day of consumption. In addition to its potentially addictive nature, refined sugar is a known health risk, which increases the chances of developing certain types of cancer and type 2 diabetes, among other things.