A new study has suggested that humans could have evolved over the years to be addicted to sugar and has linked high sugar intake to aggressive behaviour and poor mental health.
Researchers from the University of Colorado in the US suggest that the increase in people being diagnosed with conditions, such as attention deficit hyperactivity syndrome (ADHD), bipolar disorder, and aggression, are associated with consuming fructose. They also discovered that it may be down to evolution, and humans have developed an addiction to sugar over the years.
Lead author professor Richard Johnson said that fructose, which is a component of sugar, tricks the body into thinking it's starving by lowering energy in cells, and triggers a "foraging response". This response can prompt people to more freely in risk taking, impulsivity, rapid decision making, and aggressiveness, as they are seeking out food – specifically sugar – as a means of survival.
However, too much of this behaviour caused by excess sugar intake may cause behaviour that could range from ADHD, mental health problems and violence.
"While the fructose pathway was meant to aid survival, fructose intake has skyrocketed during the last century and may be in overdrive due to the high amounts of sugar that are in the current Western diet," Johnson explained, noting that humans may have evolved to be addicted to sugar, prompting an increase in obesity and behavioural disorders.
"We do not blame aggressive behaviour on sugar, but rather note that it may be one contributor," Johnson insisted, and urged for more research into the risk factors of sugar and fructose metabolism.
The study, published in ‘Evolution and Human Behaviour’, notes that while modest intake of fructose may protect the body from the side effects of starvation, excessive intake of fructose, specifically high fructose corn syrup, can stimulate craving, risk-taking, impulsivity and aggression and increases the risk of ADHD and bipolar disorder. Long-term and excessive fructose intake may also lead to depression.