Food and Behaviour Research

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Excessive Sugar Consumption May Be a Difficult Habit to Break: A View From the Brain and Body.

Tryon MS, Stanhope KL, Epel ES, Mason AE, Brown R, Medici V, Havel PJ, Laugero KD. (2015) J Clin Endocrinol Metab.   DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1210/jc.2014-4353 

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Abstract:

CONTEXT:

Sugar overconsumption and chronic stress are growing health concerns because they both may increase the risk for obesity and its related diseases. Rodent studies suggest that sugar consumption may activate a glucocorticoid-metabolic-brain-negative feedback pathway, which may turn off the stress response and thereby reinforce habitual sugar overconsumption.

OBJECTIVE:

The objective of the study was to test our hypothesized glucocorticoid-metabolic-brain model in women consuming beverages sweetened with either aspartame of sucrose.

DESIGN:

This was a parallel-arm, double-masked diet intervention study.

SETTING:

The study was conducted at the University of California, Davis, Clinical and Translational Science Center's Clinical Research Center and the University of California, Davis, Medical Center Imaging Research Center.

PARTICIPANTS:

Nineteen women (age range 18-40 y) with a body mass index (range 20-34 kg/m2) who were a subgroup from a National Institutes of Health-funded investigation of 188 participants assigned to eight experimental groups.

INTERVENTION:

The intervention consisted of sucrose- or aspartame-sweetened beverage consumption three times per day for 2 weeks.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES:

Salivary cortisol and regional brain responses to the Montreal Imaging Stress Task were measured.

RESULTS:

Compared with aspartame, sucrose consumption was associated with significantly higher activity in the left hippocampus (P = .001). Sucrose, but not aspartame, consumption associated with reduced (P = .024) stress-induced cortisol. The sucrose group also had a lower reactivity to naltrexone, significantly (P = .041) lower nausea, and a trend (P = .080) toward lower cortisol.

CONCLUSION:

These experimental findings support a metabolic-brain-negative feedback pathway that is affected by sugar and may make some people under stress more hooked on sugar and possibly more vulnerable to obesity and its related conditions.