Cocaine: Often referred to as “coke,” it’s an illicit drug derived from the coca plant. In 2001 it was estimated to cause less than 100 deaths per year in the US.
Coca Cola: a soda containing a high concentration of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), used to sweeten the drink. Sodas with HFCS were linked to 180,000 deaths in 2010. And despite what the Corn Refiners Association tell you, HFCS is not natural.
Now the numbers don’t lie. Both substances are clearly harmful to the body – except only one of them is illegal (and look how little that death toll is). In fact, only one of them is even frowned upon. Our society is so happy to be nannyed on some things but not others, despite the evidence.
Many will say it’s irresponsible or even counter-productive to draw comparisons between an illicit drug like cocaine and sodas such as coke. But there are just so many similarities… other than the name (as ironic as it is).
In fact new research presented by addiction expert Francesco Leri at the 2013 Canadian Neuroscience Meeting suggests we can become physiologically addicted to junk food, just as we can become addicted to hard-drugs. His team found that HFCS can cause behavioral reactions in rats, similar to those produced by addictive drugs.
Leri, Associate Professor of Neuroscience and Applied Cognitive Science at the University of Guelph, says in the press release, “There is now convincing neurobiological and behavioural evidence indicating that addiction to food is possible.”
The “food addiction” hypothesis Professor Leri investigates suggests certain individuals are far more vulnerable to develop an addiction to a type of food than others, for example an addiction to HFCS found in Coke. This small percentage of people could be the ones struggling most with obesity.
“Food addiction” works just the same as cocaine addiction – many people try cocaine, but only a small percentage become addicted. Addiction happens when substance use goes from a positive reinforcement to a negative kind; so over-eating junk food may actually just be a symptom of addiction, with the cause of the entire problem being the food product- in this case sodas containing HFCS.
So we are potentially faced with a scenario in which consuming HFCS is a direct cause of obesity, and – due to the addictive nature of HFCS – the symptoms of obesity include consuming more HFCS. It’s a vicious circle.
Now there will be readers that say we aren’t mice or rats, and we generally don’t consume the high concentration of HFCS used in animal studies (although there are some of us that do!). But the point is HFCS can be addictive, making it one of the key reasons why the obesity health problem is continually getting worse.
And can you honestly say you haven’t met someone addicted to soda? I know many people that would cringe at the idea of simply having water at the dinner table.
Perhaps those that do become addicted to HFCS need far more than calories shown on the menu to help them get clean.
So what are your thoughts on sweets being addictive? Do you know anyone addicted to soda or another HFCS sweetened product?