It’s not really news — we’ve heard before that diet drinks can trick our brain into thinking we are getting something sweet and triggering an insulin response, thus creating a metabolic reaction when there are no calories for which the body to react to.

But while reading a JAMA commentary about a study involving rats and saccharin, I was shocked by the following statement:

In support of this possibility, Swithers and Davidson6 reported that rodents fed saccharin compared with those fed glucose showed diminished calorie compensation ability, increased calorie intake, and increased body weight. In a study of pharmacological reward, Lenoir et al7 gave rodents the mutually exclusive choice of intravenous cocaine or an oral saccharin solution. They found that most animals, including those with prior cocaine exposure, selected the lever that dispensed saccharin over the lever that dispensed cocaine and suggested that “[t]he absolute preference for taste sweetness may lead to a re-ordering in the hierarchy of potentially addictive stimuli, with sweetened diets. . . taking precedence over cocaine and possibly other drugs of abuse.”

Um.  Woah.  So rats would rather have sweet to cocaine and possibly other drugs of abuse?  Really?

And if rats would rather have sweet to cocaine (which, let’s face it, is one of the most abusive drugs known to man), what does that tell us about the abusive powers of sweet?

Is it any wonder why it’s so hard to break carb addiction?

I didn’t think so.  Any of us who have fought a metabolic disorder, who are self-proclaimed carb-addicts or “sugar whores” know how hard it is to get off the sugar bandwagon, to go low-carb.  Hell, hubs wants to run for the hills when I first go low-carb again after a binge of high-carb blitzing ’round here cause I could probably kill.

David S. Ludwig, MD, PhD

JAMA. 2009;302(22):2477-2478.