Colantuoni C, Schwenker J, McCarthy J, Rada P, Ladenheim B, Cadet JL, Schwartz GJ, Moran TH, Hoebel BG. (2001) Neuroreport. 12(16) 3549-52.
Palatable food stimulates neural systems implicated in drug dependence; thus sugar might have effects like a drug of abuse.
Rats were given 25% glucose solution with chow for 12 h followed by 12 h of food deprivation each day. They doubled their glucose intake in 10 days and developed a pattern of excessive intake in the first hour of daily access.
After 30 days, receptor binding was compared to chow-fed controls. Dopamine D-1 receptor binding increased significantly in the accumbens core and shell. In contrast, D-2 binding decreased in the dorsal striatum. Binding to dopamine transporter increased in the midbrain. Opioid mu-1 receptor binding increased significantly in the cingulate cortex, hippocampus, locus coeruleus and accumbens shell.
Thus, intermittent, excessive sugar intake sensitized D-1 and mu-1 receptors much like some drugs of abuse.