All this time we’ve been chastising Toronto mayor Rob Ford for allegedly taking crack cocaine, we might also have been taking an addictive (but legal) substance.
A new study shows that high-fructose corn syrup (aka the palatable, food-like sweetener that’s in many breads, sodas, condiments and most processed foods) is highly addictive.
Unfortunately, it has also been linked to obesity and diabetes.
The study, presented by addiction expert Francesco Leri at the 2013 Canadian Neuroscience Meeting, shows that high-fructose corn syrup can cause reactions in rats similar to those produced by addictive drugs like cocaine.
In a press release, Leri wisely points out that "we are not rats," but I guess our kids are kind of rat-like because, according to Leri, they "do not think too much about the impact of sweets on their brain and behaviour." This makes them even more vulnerable to addiction – a scary thought considering many fructose-sweetened foods (like cereals) are marketed to them.
"We have evidence in laboratory animals of a shared vulnerability to develop preferences for sweet foods and for cocaine," Leri said. "There is now convincing neurobiological and behavioural evidence indicating that addiction to food is possible."
The researchers believe this study could lead to interventions for obese people to help them selectively reduce intake of unhealthy foods.
What do you think? Will you be looking at labels more closely in an attempt to avoid high-fructose corn syrup?
-Katharine Watts, associate web editor