Eat Me! This Is Your Brain on Sugar

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In her new book, "Why Diets Fail," Columbia University neuroscientist and research psychologist Nicole Avena reveals that sugar is addictive; which may not come as a surprise to anyone who has suffered the unrelenting whine of a stubborn sweet tooth.

In experiments with rats, she found that overeating foods like sugar can actually result in changes in the brain that resemble addiction.

Avena explains how sugar gives us a hit of dopamine – one of the key ingredients in the brain’s reward system. Dopamine is the reason that alcohol, tobacco, and heroine can be so irresistible to many.

And while sugar does not pack the same dopamine punch that more addictive drugs do, too much of the sweet stuff can nudge the brain into overdrive, leading to loss of control, cravings and increased tolerance to sugar. All of which can lead to problems.

The moral of the story? Those sensitive to sugar should practice careful moderation; otherwise, as NPR’s Eliza Barclay points out, “there's a pretty good chance that your brain is going to start demanding sugar loudly and often. And we're probably better off without that extra voice in our head.”