Sugar-Addicted Rats

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

  • About
Much of the initial research on food and addiction emerged from animal models of eating behavior. Rats given intermittent access to sugar (in addition to standard rat chow) binge on progressively larger quantities of sugar, exhibit signs of withdrawal when sugar is removed, and display greater motivation for traditionally addictive substances (e.g., alcohol). Animals consuming sweets (like Oreos and cheesecake) are more likely to binge on these foods when stressed and will continue to seek out these sugary foods despite receiving electric shocks. Not only do these animals exhibit extreme behaviors, but also their consumption of these highly palatable foods is related to changes in their brains that have been linked with addiction, such as a reduction in dopamine receptors.