Children who are cutting down on soft drinks suffer the same withdrawal symptoms as drug addicts, a study has revealed.
Teenagers who went ‘cold turkey’, giving up sugar-sweetened beverages altogether, suffered anxiety, lethargy, headaches and cravings, experts found.
The findings suggest that even moderate drinkers may find it hard to kick the habit.
So-called sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs) have been blamed for the worldwide epidemic of children who are either overweight or obese. The United Kingdom is the seventh-highest consumer of soft drinks in Europe – on average Britons drink 322 cans a year, it is reported.
The drinks make up 40 per cent of added sugar in a teenager’s diet, says the National Diet and Nutrition Survey.
In the American study, led by the University of California’s Dr Jennifer Falbe, researchers found that youngsters who swapped fizzy drinks for milk or water suffered ‘withdrawal symptoms’ in less than three days.
‘Adolescents reported increased SSB cravings and headaches and decreased motivation, contentment, ability to concentrate, and overall well-being,’ they said.
And they warned: ‘High sugar intake activates similar neural circuitry and reward systems as substances of abuse. Adolescence is a particularly susceptible period for addiction, when still-developing brains are highly sensitive to substances and when risk-taking is more likely.’ The 25 mainly female 13- to 18-year-olds normally drank up to three cans of soft drinks a day, and were overweight or obese.
Their overall health was monitored for five days before they were asked to switch drinks. Within 24 hours the youngsters began suffering headaches, listlessness and poor concentration.
The study in the journal Appetite shows that sugar excited the brain in the same way as drugs and alcohol.
The research revealed ‘parallels between added sugars and substances of abuse in bingeing, craving, tolerance, and withdrawal’.Daily Mail