A Love For Sweets May Be A Sign Of Alcoholism

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Everybody thinks of a sweet tooth as a harmless love for sugar, but a new study suggests it may foretell something more sinister: a love of alcohol. Researchers used functional MRI scans on the brains of 16 young adults while they drank either water or a sweet mixture of sugar water. Health News reports that when the researchers compared their brain activity to the drinking patterns, they noticed a significant connection.

The study found a strong link between the participants’ responses to the sweet water in their brain’s left orbitofrontal area, which works as the brain’s reward center, and binge drinking. The report was published in the July 10 online edition of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

“Specifically, the trend was such that those who drank more alcohol on drinking days had stronger left orbitofrontal responses to the intensely sweet water,” study corresponding author David Kareken, deputy director of the Indiana Alcohol Research Center and a professor in the department of neurology at Indiana University School of Medicine, said in a journal news release.

How participants rated their preference for the sugar water mixture also played a part in the relationship, “so that both the brain response itself, as well as liking of the sugared water, collectively correlated with drinking behavior,” Kareken stated.

All of this culminates to suggest that a strong response to sweets in the brain’s reward center may be a red flag for a heightened risk for alcoholism.

Previous studies in humans and animals have made note of the correlation between preferences for sweet tastes and alcohol, but Kareken believes this is the first to investigate the biological mechanisms behind the connection.

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