Type II diabetes is booming in the developed world and obviously obesity is the primary driver. A new paper contends sugar is a primary driver of that obesity, rather than consuming too many calories and not exercising, and so sugar addiction should be treated just like cigarettes.
While pharmaceutical companies will be delighted by the efforts of scholars in the pay-to-publish journal PLOS ONE to give them a brand new market, claims of sugar addiction, while a popular fad for the last few years, have not really held up. Nonetheless, neuroscience Professor Selena Bartlett from
Queensland University of Technology
says drugs like varenicline (Champix) used to treat nicotine addiction can work the same way when it comes to sugar cravings in animals. Varenicline acted as a neuronal nicotinic receptor modulator (nAChR) and similar results were observed with other such drugs including mecamylamine and cytisine.
Animal models are what they are. No successful medical treatment has ever not worked in animals first, but most don't work in humans regardless of their success in rats. And since sugar addiction is not known to exist it has been used to create another phantom disease, "pre-diabetes", and drug companies caught in the miasma of Valeant's decline into absurdity will surely be happy someone is claiming they can prevent diabetes.
To be sure, excess calories contribute directly to weight gain and sugar is part of that. Sugar can also elevate dopamine levels which control the brain's reward and pleasure centers, but it is a giant leap to claim that makes sugar the same as tobacco, cocaine and morphine. The contention is that consumers seek the dopamine and not the sweetness, and so will escalate sugar usage. If that were so, Type II diabetes would not be a "first world" problem.
And if it were so, artificial sweeteners would not cause the same reaction, which is the obvious confounder in the study. If artificial sweeteners cause the same reaction, then sugar is a placebo and not an addiction.
"After long-term consumption, this leads to the opposite, a reduction in dopamine levels. This leads to higher consumption of sugar to get the same level of reward.
"We have also found that as well as an increased risk of weight gain, animals that maintain high sugar consumption and binge eating into adulthood may also face neurological and psychiatric consequences affecting mood and motivation.