Copyright 2004 Western Mail and Echo Ltd
September 15, 2004, Wednesday
SECTION: First Edition; NEWS; Pg. 2
LENGTH: 392 words
HEADLINE: SUGAR AND 'SPICE' MAY PROVIDE CLUES TO ALCOHOLISM
A sweet tooth and a taste for adventure may be the hallmarks of alcoholism, researchers
said last night.
New findings show that a combination of the two factors indicate that a person
is likely to be an alcoholic.
But either trait on its own is not a predictor of alcohol dependence.
Researchers examined 165 middle-aged patients admitted to a residential treatment
programme for alcohol and drug addiction and social problems related to family
Participants were asked to fill in a personality questionnaire, screened for a
paternal family history of alcoholism, and given a standard sweet-taste test.
Research leader Professor Alexei Kampov-Polevoy, from the Mount
Sinai School of Medicine in New York, said, 'The main finding of this study is
that two independent and presumably heritable traits, such as sweet-liking and
high novelty-seeking, separately, were insufficient to predict alcoholism in our
sample. However, if a person had both of these traits, he or she most likely was
He said the association was not surprising because of the way both sweet tastes
and alcohol affected the part of the brain that responded to rewards.
'Children of alcoholics are reported to have a heritable dysfunction of the brain
reward system that makes them super-sensitive to the rewarding effects of alcohol,'
'The same brain dysfunction causes preference for stronger sweet solutions, or
sweet-liking. If such an individual also has high novelty-seeking that causes
early experimentation with alcohol, it significantly increases the risk of development
He said the findings may lead to the development of a simple test that can assess
the risk of an individual developing dependence on alcohol.
The results, published in the journal Alcoholism Clinical and Experimental Research,
may also be of help to parents.
'Based on our findings, we may say that for children - especially
boys who prefer stronger sweet tastes and have signs of elevated novelty-seeking,
it is especially important to delay their first experience with alcohol, although
the same advice is good for all children,' said Professor Kampov-Polevoy.'
Novelty-seeking has long been thought to promote early
experimentation with alcohol and higher rates of heavy drinking and alcohol abuse.
LOAD-DATE: September 15, 2004