Saturday, July 11, 2009

Sugar a Factor in Drinking and Loss of Inhibitions? || kuro5hin.org

Sugar a Factor in Drinking and Loss of Inhibitions? || kuro5hin.org

Brain Food

Live Science has reported ("How Alcohol Changes the Brain ... Quickly") on a study appearing in the popular Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism, a publication that routinely gives Reader's Digest a run for its money in circulation numbers.

Previously consigned to studying drunken animals only, the scientists studied humans drinking alcohol (through straws) while being scanned in an MRI machine. At a blood alcohol level of 0.05-0.06%, brain cells had abandoned their normal energy source, glucose, and instead began to consume the sugar produced by the breakdown of alcohol.

"Our study provides evidence for alternative energy utilization upon alcohol ingestion," said researcher Armin Biller at Heidelberg University Hospital. "The brain uses an alcohol breakdown product instead of glucose for energy demands."

The focus of their study is on the long-term impact of drinking on the composition of cell membranes, which may play a role in the development of alcoholism. They did not study the role of "alternative energy utilization" on inhibitions.

Suck out my motherfucking brains, my brains (sugar!)

However, another recent study ("The Physiology of Willpower: Linking Blood Glucose to Self-Control") found in the Personality and Social Psychology Review, a household name if there ever was one, argues that:

Self-control relies on some sort of limited energy source... Blood glucose is one important part of the energy source of self-control. Acts of self-control deplete relatively large amounts of glucose. Self-control failures are more likely when glucose is low or cannot be mobilized effectively to the brain.

Given that the brain ceases to consume glucose as its principal energy course, and instead relies on sugars found as a byproduct of the breakdown of alcohol, we might speculate that this is one chemical factor in the loss of inhibitions that we observe in drinkers.

Numerous self-control behaviors fit this pattern, including controlling attention, regulating emotions, quitting smoking, coping with stress, resisting impulsivity, and refraining from criminal and aggressive behavior.

All of these symptoms of lack of willpower are found commonly among drinkers, habitual or not.

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