We’d like to think there’s a big difference between handing a kid a can of soda and offering him a line of cocaine, but new research on the link between high fructose corn syrup and addiction suggests otherwise. Canadian researchers from the University of Ontario studied lab rats’ reactions to increasing doses of high fructose corn syrup (you know, the sweetener that’s in everything from soda to bread) and determined that it produced reactions “similar to those produced by drugs of abuse such as cocaine.”
Once the rats were all hopped up on high fructose corn syrup, they were given access to a lever that controlled how much syrup they received. The more concentrated the syrup, the harder the rats worked to obtain it . . . which, coincidentally, is also true of serious cocaine addiction. The Canadian researchers hypothesized that an unacknowledged addiction to the high fructose corn syrup that sweetens most of our favorite foods could be responsible for the planet’s growing obesity epidemic. If it’s true, this could be a major blow for snack food and soda companies, many of which have gotten away with selling products containing much more high fructose corn syrup than the federal limit would allow.
Of course, this doesn’t mean we’re gearing up for a full fledged drug war on soda and candy bars (despite what Mayor Bloomberg might think). Still, it might be a good idea to keep an eye on the nutrition label of our favorite snack foods, and if we start seeing people go into shock from candy bar deprivation . . . well, then we’ll know we have a problem.