High-Fructose Corn Syrup "as Addictive as Cocaine"

By Valerie Tejeda 06/10/13

Researchers say addiction to the common ingredient could help explain the obesity epidemic.

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Crack of the masses. Photo via

High-fructose corn syrup—a staple in the many Americans' diets—may be as addictive as cocaine, new research claims. A team of scientists led by Francesco Leri, an addiction expert and Associate Professor of Neuroscience and Applied Cognitive Science at the University of Guelph, fed rats diets containing different levels of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). After training the critters to press a lever to control how much of the sweet substance they would receive, they found that certain rats responded to large amounts of HFCS in the same way cocaine addicts responded to the drug. The more concentrated the syrup, the harder the rats worked at pressing the lever to obtain more. Researchers say the findings may help explain the global obesity epidemic. "There is now convincing neurobiological and behavioral evidence indicating that addiction to food is possible," says Leri. Similar to cocaine addiction, the researchers say that some people are more vulnerable to food addiction than others, which explains why some are obese and some are not. High-fructose corn syrup is a common ingredient in many foods—especially in processed foods such as bread, meat, chocolate bars, soda, cereals, ketchup, soup, and nearly all fast foods. As a result of the study, the researchers say more should be done to educate the public about their food choices. The World Health Organization estimates that the global rate of obesity has more than doubled since 1980; more than 1.4 billion people were classified as overweight in 2008 and 500 million of overweight people were classified as obese.

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Entertainment journalist and author Valerie Tejeda spends her days reporting on books, television, and all things pertaining to pop culture, and spends her nights writing novels for teens. Her stories have appeared on a variety of different publications, including but not limited to: VanityFair, MTV, The Huffington Post, TeenVogue, She Knows, Latina, The Fix, Salon.com, Cosmopolitan, and more. You can find Valerie on Linkedin and Twitter.

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