For those of you who equate cookie dough to crack (like 93 percent of the human race), here's some scientific validation for ya: A new study from Queensland University of Technology in Australia suggests that sugar's addictive qualities parallel those of nicotine and other habit-forming substances.
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For the study, researchers treated rats with varenicline (aka CHANTIX), an FDA-approved smoking cessation drug, and found that that the medication led to a decrease in sucrose consumption. They surmise that varenicline helped balance the rats' levels of dopamine (a feel-good neurotransmitter), thereby reducing their cravings for the sweet stuff. (Finally, a cure for the sugar-addicted rats.)
Like nicotine and cocaine, sugar stimulates your brain's pleasure centers, spiking dopamine. Problem is, over time, you can become desensitized to the dopamine release (say, from one brownie), causing you to need a higher dose to get the same buzz (oh hey, brownie tray). At that point, you're chemically addicted, which is why going cold turkey on sweets is so rough—the sudden dopamine dip makes sugar withdrawal no joke. (Hell hath no fury like a woman sans scone, is what we like to say).
In a press release, the study authors noted that further research is required to determine whether anti-smoking drugs are actually a smart strategy for curbing cookie addiction in humans, but in the meantime, try our step-by-step plan for quitting sugar without losing your damn mind.
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