There has been a suggestion in existing body of research indicating a linkage between having a sweet tooth and alcoholism. It has been shown that same regions of the brain are implicated in alcohol and substance abuse as they are in consumption of sweet tasting foods. Using new brain imaging technique called Functional MRI, researchers have shown that a heightened response to sweet tasting foods in specific brain areas may indicate a risk for developing alcohol abuse and dependence. Research has shown a clear relationship between preference for sweetness and alcohol consumption in animals and this goes true for natural sugars as well as artificial sweeteners. Although the relationship has not been that clear in humans there has been some studies indicating a relationship between preferences for highly sweet tastes and risk for developing alcohol abuse and dependence. To further clarify this linkage recently a study was conducted at the Indiana Alcohol Research Center and the findings will be published in an upcoming issue of the journal: Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.
This study’s focus was to examine the relationship between the intensity of stimulation of brain areas involved in pleasure and reward system in response to highly sweet tastes and the individual’s alcohol consumption patterns. The research was conducted on healthy young individuals from the community.
The researchers examined what areas of their brains are stimulated in response to sweet substances as well as plain water and then correlated these responses to the person’s drinking patterns. The scientists discovered that highly sweet tastes not only stimulated the taste centers of the brain but also those areas of the frontal lobe which are designated as the brain’s primary reward system. The intensity of stimulation of these specific brain regions in response to highly sweet substances were found to have a significant relationship with these individual’s alcohol consumption habits; especially the binge type drinking. The individuals with histories of heavier drinking on the days that they did drink showed much stronger stimulation of these brain reward areas in response to sweet tastes. It goes without saying that much additional research is needed to clearly delineate the relationship between preferences for sweets and developing alcohol abuse and dependence, this study definitely takes us a step further in focusing the future research in identifying those who are at risk for developing alcohol use disorders.