Study: Refined Carbs Act Like Drugs, Also Delicious

Take a look at those cupcakes. Look at all that that sweet, sexy, chewy, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth goodness. You want one? You know you want one...

According to a new study, this is your brain on carbs. Yup, that's right, you've probably developed a genuine addiction to the high of refined carbohydrates. STEP AWAY from the cupcake. GET SOME HELP.

A recent, small-scale study out Tuesday implies that we're all like Courtney Love after a few trips to Dunkin' Donuts—because your brain responds to refined carbohydrates in a similar way it would to drugs.

First, the distinction between refined and unrefined carbs: refined carbs, such as muffins, cookies, white bread, white rice—and everything else good in this world—are made with more artificial ingredients than unrefined carbs (e.g. brown rice, beans, vegetables). The refined carb that pops up in most processed American food is corn syrup, a sweetener that acts as an alternative to sugar. (Not to be confused with high-fructose corn syrup, a common ingredient in fast food and soda, which has been linked to obesity, heart disease and all manner of bad things.)

The body breaks down unrefined carbs at a slow, measured pace, which is good for blood sugar and general health: you stay full and sugar-stable, longer. Refined carbs, however, are quickly absorbed and done with, so your blood sugar spikes quickly ( producing a 'sugar high') and then falls again—so you're back being hungry.

The not-so extensive study, published last week in the American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition, involved 12 obese men drinking two identical-tasting drinks: one caused their blood sugar to spike rapidly, and one did not.

After getting all sugar-high, the men's brains showed increased activity in the addiction center: the rollercoaster experience of the drink had caused their brain to associate it with pleasure and reward. After the drop, they wanted more, felt hungrier, and started craving more of those sweet, sweet refined carbs. This mimics what happens to the brain after using drugs. (We expect a PSA entitled 'This Is Your Brain On Cupcakes' to come soon.)

"To put it simply," said chief researcher David Ludwig, "we didn't evolve to eat the low-fat Twinkie for breakfast."

But they will still be here after we're extinct.

Still, Fourth of July is coming up. It would be a shame not to have some ice cream...consider us your enablers.