Sweet! Science Identifies the “Sugar Craving” Circuit in Our Brains

Now that we’ve identified it, can we use it to help us eat better?

image via (cc) flickr user tjadin

A new study done by researchers out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s has, for the first time, identified the existence of a specific neural pathway in the brain which regulates compulsive sugar cravings independent of the body's other appetite-related processes. That's good news for anyone who finds themselves the owner of a seriously unhealthy sweet tooth—an independent neural circuit responsible for extreme sugar cravings has the potential to be treated without interfering with the body's natural appetite for other (hopefully healthier) foods.

A release from MIT announcing the study’s findings explains that while compulsive sugar craving may seem similar to drug addiction, the nature of the substance being craved marks a key difference:

Drug addiction is defined as compulsive drug-seeking despite adverse consequences at school, work, or home. Addictive drugs “hijack” the brain’s natural reward-processing center, the ventral tegmental area (VTA). But food is a natural reward and, unlike a drug, is necessary for survival, so it has been unclear whether overeating results from a similar compulsion, or from something else.

The challenge of curbing compulsive sugar consumption has long been to do so without damping down a person’s appetite as a whole. It’s a “baby/bath water” dynamic that hadn’t addressed what researchers now know to be the unique neural nature of sugar craving. As the MIT study’s lead researcher Kay Tye explained in the release:

“For the first time, we have identified how the brain encodes compulsive sugar seeking and we’ve also shown that it appears to be distinct from normal, adaptive eating ... We need to study this circuit in more depth, but our ultimate goal is to develop safe, noninvasive approaches to avert maladaptive eating behaviors, first in mice and eventually in people”

While a human application for this discovery doesn’t seem to be in our immediate future, the study’s findings mark a significant step toward better understanding—and eventually addressing—the neural chemistry behind some of our worst eating habits.

via David Leavitt / Twitter and RealTargetTori / Twitter

Last Friday, GOOD reported on an infuriating incident that went down at a Massachusetts Target.

A Target manager who's come to be known as "Target Tori," was harassed by Twitter troll David Leavitt for not selling him an $89 Oral-B Pro 5000 toothbrush for a penny.

He describes himself as a "multimedia journalist who has worked for CBS, AXS, Yahoo, and others."

Keep Reading
via David Leavitt / Twitter

Anyone who has ever worked in retail knows that the worst thing about the job, right after the pay, are the unreasonable cheapskates who "want to talk to your manager" to get some money off an item.

They think that throwing a tantrum will save them a few bucks and don't care if they completely embarrass themselves in the process. Sometimes that involves belittling the poor employee who's just trying to get through their day with an ounce of dignity.

Twitter is rallying around a gal named Tori who works at a Target in Massachusetts after she was tweet-shamed by irate chapekate, journalist, and Twitter troll, David Leavitt.

Keep Reading
via Haldean Brown / Flickr

In a typical work day, people who smoke take more breaks than those who do not. Every few hours they pop outside to have a smoke and usually take a coworker with them.

Don Bryden, Managing director at KCJ Training and Employment Solutions in Swindon, England, thinks that nonsmokers and smokers should be treated equally, so he's giving those who refrain from smoking four extra days to compensate.

Funny enough, Bryden is a smoker himself.

Keep Reading