The scary reason you should quit sugar now

Kristine Tarbert

As if we needed another reason to curb those sweet cravings.

New research has revealed a link between a diet high in refined sugars and drug use.

The study conducted in the laboratory of behavioural neuroscience at the University of Guelph, suggests that too much sugar can leave children and adults more susceptible to opioid addiction and overdose.

sugar addiction

Too much sugar has been linked to drug addiction. Photo: Getty

Writing for The Conversation, Associate Professor Francesco Leri, explained that there is already substantial experimental evidence out there that refined sugar can promote addictive behaviours.

It activates the reward centres in the brain, in a very similar way as addictive drugs.

Opioid abuse is also linked with poor dietary habits, including preferences for sugar-rich foods

Source: Giphy

In order to see if a sugar-rich diet plays a role in opioid addiction, the lab investigated whether unlimited access to high fructose corn syrup altered rats' neural and behavioural responses to the semi-synthetic opioid, oxycodone.

“Our findings suggest that a diet high in corn syrup may dampen the reward associated with oxycodone and may therefore encourage consumption of higher quantities of the drug,” Francesco wrote.

sugar can increase drug consumption

The study on rats showed sugar could increase drug consumption. Photo: Getty

“Our experiments show that chronic exposure to high fructose corn syrup had an impact on both the neural and behavioural responses to oxycodone, resulting in changes likely to affect drug-taking and drug-seeking behaviour.”

The results also indicate that a high sugar diet may dampen the reward associated with a certain dose of the oxycodone, potentially causing people to want more of the drug.

“The prevention of unhealthy diets may not only help reduce the obesity epidemic, but also reduce environmental factors that may predispose to opioid addiction,” Francesco concluded.

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