New study shows carbohydrates cause cravings just like drug addicts experience


Ever eaten a combination like a frosted raspberry jelly doughnut washed down with a cup of cocoa? You feel guilty even as you take the last bite - and then find yourself craving another food fix in an hour. Now scientists say that they've discovered the reason for those cravings, which they compare to the sensations that drug addicts feel, reports the June 26 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Why One Cookie is Never Enough

The researchers discovered that your body responds to highly processed carbohydrates such as cookies with a sharp spike, followed by a crash in your blood sugar. This cycle impacts the reward and addiction centers in your brain, and explains why so many of us can't stop at just a few potato chips or a single freshly baked chocolate chip cookie. "Refined carbohydrates seem to be able to provoke food cravings many hours after consumption, at least in susceptible people," said study co-author David Ludwig, the director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center in Boston. "Limiting these foods could help overweight people avoid overeating." In other words, if you want to lose weight, say "no" to that first cookie.


Should Refined Carbohydrates Be Banned?

A Stanford University nutrition scientist Christopher Gardner says we should take those study results into consideration for food regulations. If refined carbohydrates are just as addictive as drugs, should they be regulated? "If it can be demonstrated that addictive foods are bypassing an individual’s ability to regulate their intake, then the possibility of designing, passing and enforcing legislation to help support Americans in making healthier food choices becomes more of a reality," he declared. Reality check: Most Americans want to make their own food decisions, and banning processed versions of cookies, doughnuts and potato chips would lead to "contraband" being sold in bakeries (looks as if Paula Dean may have missed a chance to kick-start a movement to make your own Twinkies!).

Bottom Line On How Carbs Impact Your Bottom

Study co-author David Ludwig noted that bypassing processed carbohydrates can help both overweight people as well as those who are lean and want to maintain their weight. Because cookies, chips and cake are followed by a drop in blood sugar and a resulting craving, our brains respond by viewing those processed carbohydrates as more pleasurable and rewarding. "The problem is when the modern, highly processed carbohydrates can hijack this evolutionarily based reward system, putting it, in effect, into overdrive," Ludwig said. "To put it simply, we didn't evolve to eat the low-fat Twinkie for breakfast." In other words: those on Paleo diet plans just may be following the path to permanent weight loss success.


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