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January 2003
NEW PSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH
Summarized by Alan M. Solomon, Ph.D.

SUGAR IS ADDICTIVE – INDEED
Rat researchers have found that bingeing on sugar will prompt withdrawal symptoms from the lab animals when sugar is denied to them: changes in brain chemistry and having the shakes. The leader of the study, Bart Hoebel, describes it as, “The brain is getting addicted to its own opioids, which are produced when sugar is consumed, just as it would to morphine or heroin. Drugs have a bigger effect, but it’s essentially the same process.”

This study was done at Princeton University. Contact the author at hoebel@Princeton.edu.

TREATING DEPRESSION WITH MEDICATION VS. TALK THERAPY
In treating depression, anti-depressant medication produced faster relief than cognitive-behavioral therapy. But when both treatments were stopped after four months, the drug treatment group relapsed at a 40% rate, compared to 25% for the cognitive-behavioral group. More information on this study at Vanderbilt from: steven.d.hollon@vanderbilt.edu.

Learning how to cope more skillfully with depression seems to have more ongoing benefits than simply relief from depressive symptoms gained through medication. Actively participating in one’s treatment is more beneficial, one might speculate.

PETS ARE GOOD FOR CHILDREN’S HEALTH
A researcher in England tested children from 5-8 years old to determine the health of their immune system. Higher levels of immunoglobulin A indicate vulnerability to infection, while low levels indicate the immune system is under attack. More stable levels imply a healthier balance in the immune system and less likelihood of illness occurring. 138 children were tested, those with pets had more stable levels of indicator in their saliva.

Thus, owning a pet seems to help children’s immune system function in better ways, which likely means less illness and fewer days of school missed. June McNicholas, a psychologist at the University of Warwick, reported these findings: j.mcnicholas@warwick.ac.uk.


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