Artificial Sweeteners

Cocaine vs Sweeteners: which is more addictive?

Researchers sought to determine this by using rats. The study found that rats actually became more addicted to artificial sweeteners and sugar than cocaine. In fact, 94% of rats were **8x more likely** to choose artificial sweeteners over cocaine. Even rats who were already addicted to cocaine before the study gave preference to the sweetened solutions.

Maybe it was just bad cocaine? Unlikely… The rats still preferred cocaine over water. Even increasing the dose to toxic levels didn’t surpass their sweet addiction.

Everybody knows someone who has to have their coke or diet soda each day, and most of us have experienced the challenge of having only one Oreo. If the findings of this study hold true for humans, then the concept of “moderation” likely won’t work for those trying to cut sugar addiction.

“In most mammals, including rats and humans, sweet receptors evolved in ancestral environments poor in sugars and are thus not adapted to high concentrations of sweet tastants. The supranormal stimulation of these receptors by sugar-rich diets, such as those now widely available in modern societies, would generate a supranormal reward signal in the brain, with the potential to override self-control mechanisms and thus to lead to addiction.”

Additional information:
1) Cocaine increases dopamine in the ventral striatum significantly more, yet the sweet reward was still greater.
2) Increased sweet stimulation modulates gene expression of opiod peptides; therefore opiod signaling may be responsible addiction.


Lenoir, M., Serre, F., Cantin, L., & Ahmed, S. H. (2007). Intense Sweetness Surpasses Cocaine Reward. PLoS ONE, 2(8). Retrieved from