Sunday, December 4, 2011

Food Trends: Addicted to sugar? Blame it on the brain.

I have worked with hundreds of clients, some who come right into my office and tell me they are addicted to sugar.   It’s a common theme that is explored individually.  After reviewing patterns and lifestyles, recommendations are made to change the makeup of meals as well as the timing and almost always we are able to decrease the intensity of the cravings once we fuel the body correctly. 
I was intrigued to read the study led by Yale University and the University of Southern California who reviewed the relationship between glucose drops and responses by the brain.  The study was published September 19th in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.  The Yale scientists manipulated glucose levels intravenously and monitored blood glucose levels while subjects were shown pictures of high calorie foods, low calorie food, and non food items.  Each subject underwent MRI scans which showed that when glucose levels dropped, the hypothalamus sensed the change. The insula and striatum, other parts of the brain associated with rewards, were also activated stimulating a need to eat.  The prefrontal cortex also proved to lose its ability to curb signals to eat and this was the most significant when subjects were shown high calorie foods.
When results of the study were reviewed, researches from the University of Southern California hypothesize that “obese individuals may have a limited ability to inhibit the impulsiveness drive to eat, especially when glucose levels drop below normal.”
In my opinion and experience it is not just the obese population who is at risk of glucose levels dropping.  Any individual who does not eat consistently and healthy is at risk to a low glucose reaction.  Do you feel you crave sweets more than the norm?  Why not talk it over with a dietitian.  You may be able to make some changes including timings of meals and the makeup of your meals to decrease the cravings to a point where they are bearable and not sabotaging. 

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