Recently, a report was published in the Daily Mail in which there was a claim that a study had shown that the smoking cessation drug called Champix (varenicline) may also help people to be able to beat sugar cravings. The claim was that it would reduce the user’s desire for sugary beverages and foods.
The justification behind the claim was that this medication impacts the “reward pathway” portions of the brain, which respond to various forms of stimulation such as sugar, gambling, sex and street drugs, among other things. When they are stimulated, they produce dopamine, which is known as a “feel-good” neurotransmitter that produces the feeling of pleasure.
By blocking those receptors, the drug reduces the stimulation-reward cycle associated with smoking. The claim was that the researchers looked into whether it could help to beat sugar cravings as well.
It is true that there was a study. It was conducted by Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane researchers, in conjunction with SRI International, which is located in California. The funding for the research was provided by the National Institute of Health and the Australian Research Council, National Health & Medical Research Council. It was published in the PLOS One journal.
That said, the problem with the report made in the Daily Mail is that it suggested that this study was enough to indicate that people could use varenicline in order to help to beat sugar cravings. Though this may be proven to be true, one day, the claim is greatly premature and is not supported by the scientific or medical community. The study itself was conducted on rats, not humans. Therefore, it is far too early to know whether or not the same advantages will be seen in people.
Due to the nature of the research, the way it was conducted and the fact that it is highly preliminary, it is far too early to be able to imply that people would be able to use the anti-smoking drug to beat their need for sweet treats and to help themselves to lose weight. Moreover, it should also be pointed out that the craving busting impact of the drug appeared to last for only about 30 minutes after the medication was administered. Because of that, it would mean that even if it did work in humans the same way that it did in the rats from the research, it would need to be taken every half hour in order to provide the intended benefit.