Even the taste of beer is enough to release pleasure chemicals in the brain according to a new study, particularly in men with a strong family history of alcoholism.
Even a small taste of beer release dopamine in the brain
Scientists discovered that the taste of beer alone, without any intoxicating effects from alcohol, is enough to release chemical dopamine in the brain.
The team looked at the effects of tiny tastes of beer on 49 men, some of whom had a family history of alcohol abuse.
The men were given enough of their favourite beer to taste it, but in small enough quantities to not affect blood-alcohol level or cause intoxication. Their brains were then scanned using Positron Emission Tomography.
Participants were also given sips of water and sports drink as a comparison.
Writing in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, the researchers found higher levels of dopamine in the brain after the men tasted beer compared with water or sports drink.
Dopamine is a chemical in the brain which is widely associated with pleasure, and it has long been associated with the consumption of alcohol and other drugs.
Notably, men with a family history of alcohol abuse showed an even greater rise in dopamine levels after tasting the beer.
Scientists say that dopamine response may be a heritable risk factor for alcoholism, and could be a useful way to assess predisposition for addition to the drug.
The men also reported higher cravings for beer after tasting the drink.
Senior author, neuroscientist David Kareken said: "We believe this is the first experiment in humans to show that the taste of an alcoholic drink alone, without any intoxicating effect from the alcohol, can elicit this dopamine activity in the brain's reward centres.”
However, experts do warn that the effects of the alcohol itself on the brain, and not just the taste, could not be ruled out as a potential cause.
There are numerous illnesses related to alcohol abuse. It is unlikely that these conditions will be covered by private health insurance, but you can speak to one of our expert advisors for more information.
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