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August 2019 (Vol. 4 Issue 6)

Sugar addiction is all in the brain, literally
About the author: 
Bryan Hubbard

Sugar addiction is all in the brain, literally image

Spare a thought for people with a sugar craving—they really do have the food on the brain. In fact, cells in the brain are actively seeking out sugar in the blood, researchers have discovered this week.

Although the brain uses up more sugar than any other organ, it was always thought the process of glucose (blood sugar) entering the brain was passive. But researchers at the Technical University of Munich have discovered that cells in the brain are actively seeking out and feeding off glucose.

Astrocytes, the most common cells in the brain that help maintain the blood-brain barrier, are controlling hormones such as insulin and leptin, which become ‘sugar switches’ that help feed the brain with glucose.

The researchers say their discovery is a ‘paradigm shift’ that could explain why existing drugs for diabetes and obesity haven’t been very effective. But it also means that new research has to be carried out to better understand the crucial role that astrocytes play in sugar addiction.


References

(Source: Cell, 2016; 166: 867)

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