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Video: Americans Average 45 Gallons of Soda Pop Each Year: Should We Just Admit It's Addictive?

By Dirk Hanson 06/30/11

Is it about the calories, the sugar, the fake sugar, or the caffeine buzz?

Yesterday, we told you about the Advertising Age survey showing that per capita consumption of carbonated soft drinks was a whopping 44.7 gallons per person in the US last year. Scientists argue vehemently about how the brain deals with simple sugars—is it all about the calories, or is all about the caffeine buzz? And what about the sugar? Every man, women, child, and lab animal in the universe seems to prefer water with a little spritz of glucose over water straight up.

Mice that have been genetically altered so that they lack the ability to taste sweet foods still prefer sugar water to regular water. There is a wealth of evidence that certain forms of overeating may qualify as legitimate drug addictions. Just as it is with, say, cocaine addicts, the reward pathways of the addictive brain often have imperfect built-in mechanisms for signaling such things as: "Stop, that’s enough, don't eat any more of those artificial sugary foods that make you feel better and improve your mood.” The food industry, according to David Kessler, former head of the Food and Drug Administration, has figured out what works—packaging fat-and-sugar foods in products that scarcely even have to be chewed, and it has priced these products to move.

Yale University conducted studies in which “hypereaters” were given the odor of chocolate during an MRI scan. Normal eaters get used to the odor and habituate rapidly. Hypereaters find that the odor of chocolate becomes more demanding and overpowering with time. And even drinking a complete chocolate milkshake did not quell the craving.

ABC News in Tampa just put together a reasonably balanced and informative three-minute video on the topic (except for an outdated total intake per person. Consumption fell last year):

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Dirk Hanson, MA, is a freelance science writer and the author of The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction. He is also the author of The New Alchemists: Silicon Valley and the Microelectronics Revolution. He has worked as a business and science reporter for numerous magazines and trade publications including Wired, Scientific American, The Dana Foundation and more. He currently edits the Addiction Inbox blog. Email: [email protected]

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