Controlling Carbohydrate Cravings
Chris D. Meletis, ND (with permission from cpmedical.net, access pin: 587556)
Anyone who suffers from carbohydrate and sugar cravings knows that it can seem like torture to try to resist them. Yet, doing so can be an important step in achieving optimal health and weight and can improve overall energy levels.
The desire to consume breads, pastries, cakes, and pizza can at times seem overpowering, and indeed, some studies have compared sugar cravings with the need to consume addictive drugs. In one study, animals with repeated, intermittent access to a sugar solution developed behaviors and brain changes similar to the effects of some drugs of abuse. This study served as the first animal model of food addiction.1
Another study showed that in animals, sugar is more addictive than cocaine. When rodents were allowed to choose mutually exclusively between sugar water and intravenous cocaine, 94 percent of the animals chose sugar. The same results were seen when the rats were allowed to choose between water sweetened with saccharin—an intense calorie-free sweetener—and cocaine. Even cocaine-addicted rats switched their preference to sugar, once the sweetener was available as a choice. The rats were also more willing to work for sugar than for cocaine.2
The study also found that animals with a long history of sugar consumption actually became desensitized to the analgesic effects of morphine.2
The researchers speculate that the addictive potential of intense sweetness has to do with sweet receptors located on the tongue. In both rats and humans, these receptors evolved in ancestral times when the diet was very low in sugar and have not adapted to the high-sugar consumption that occurs in modern times. Therefore, today’s sugar-rich diets result in abnormally high stimulation of these receptors, which triggers excessive reward signals in the brain that can override normal self-control mechanisms, leading to the intense desire for sugar.2
The reward signals that sugar consumption triggers are controlled by the dopamine system, which is involved in several aspects of the body’s responses to rewarding substances. The dopamine system is implicated in conditions such as drug addiction and eating disorders.3