Rats Prefer Sugar Water Over Cocaine

As the Los Angeles Times is reporting, a new study shows rats overwhelmingly prefer sweetened water (the water was sweetened with saccharin) to cocaine. And researchers say this shows the potentially addictive nature of sugary treats.

According to the study, offering larger doses of cocaine did not alter the rats' preference for the sugar water.

Scientists said the study might help explain the increase in obesity, which has been partly linked to overconsumption of sugary foods.

In the experiment, 43 rats were placed in cages with two levers, one of which delivered an intravenous dose of cocaine and the other a sip of highly sweetened water. At the end of the 15-day trial, 40 of the rats consistently chose saccharin instead of cocaine.

When sugar water was substituted for the saccharin solution, the results were the same, researchers said.

To further test the rat sweet tooth, scientists tested 24 rats who were addicted to cocaine. After 10 days, most preferred the sugar water.

Scientists say excess sugar can increase levels dopamine in the brain, leading to a craving for sweets.

Cocaine also increases dopamine, but through a different mechanism.

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