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PostPosted: Sun Aug 30, 2015 10:59 am 
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In the insect world, populations are enslaved by sugary snacks to alter brain chemistry and make them OBEY
by: David Gutierrez
sugar addiction, obedience, insects

At least one butterfly species has evolved the ability to drug ants into defending its larvae, according to a study conducted by researchers from Kobe University that was published in the journal Current Biology. This drugging takes place by means of a sugary liquid that the caterpillars secrete and the ants eat.

"Due to modification of brain dopamine signaling, the ants were just mad for the caterpillars," researcher Masaru Hojo said.

Could sugary snacks have a similar effect on human beings, doping them into complacency or otherwise radically changing their brain chemistry?

Ants are being drugged, not bribed

Researchers have known for some time that the caterpillar of the Japanese oakblue (Narathura japonica) secretes sugary droplets that ants consume. They have also known that after consuming the droplets, ants tend to attack anything that threatens the caterpillar. They had initially assumed that the droplets were a form of "bribe" and that the ants defended the caterpillars essentially to hang on to an easy food source.

To see if this was true, the researchers collected the secretions from oakblue caterpillars raised in the lab. They fed these secretions to Japanese Queenless Ant (Pristomyrmex punctatus) workers that were kept separate from the caterpillars.

They found that the ants became less active and explored less. When placed near a caterpillar who acted alarmed (such as by retracting its tentacles), however, the ants immediately became aggressive. Overall, the secretions seemed to make the ants bond more strongly to the caterpillar than to their own colonies.

The researchers found that after eating the droplets, the ants had lower levels of dopamine in their brains. When another group of ants was fed the dopamine-suppressing chemical reserpine instead of the caterpillar secretions, they behaved similarly.

The findings suggest that a relationship formerly thought of as mutualistic, with the ants pursuing their own self-interest in protecting the caterpillars, is actually one where the caterpillar parasitizes the ants. It raises the question of whether other seemingly mutualistic relationships are also cases of drugging.

Nearly three quarters of caterpillars in the lycaenid family use secretions to influence ants' behavior in some way.

How does sugary liquid affect our brains?

It is still unclear if the sugar in the caterpillars' secretions causes the changes in the ants' brains or if some other chemical might be at least partially responsible. Regardless, research has conclusively demonstrated that high sugar intake does cause noticeable changes to human brain chemistry.

There is nothing fundamentally wrong with sugar; the problem is that Westerners -- and especially people in the United States -- eat far too much of it. In fact, 74 percent of all packaged food contain some form of sugar.

The World Health Organization recommends that no more than 5 percent of a person's daily caloric intake come from sugar. In the United States, the average person gets 14 percent of their calories from sugar.

"Many Americans eat about five times the amount of sugar they should consume," said Natasa Janicic-Kahric of Georgetown University Hospital.

Studies have shown that high sugar consumption permanently changes the reward pathways in the brain, causing addictive patterns such as cravings, increased tolerance and reduced self-control. Studies have also suggested that a diet high in sugar could damage memory and learning ability. That's because eating too much sugar can cause the body to become desensitized to the hormone insulin, which, in addition to lowering blood sugar levels, also helps the brain communicate and form stronger memories.

Diets high in sugar have also been implicated in anxiety, depression and even dementia and cognitive decline. High sugar consumption also appears to cause brain inflammation, which is involved in these and other psychiatric problems.

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 09, 2015 5:10 pm 

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