Sweet is mother’s milk – sweeter than cow’s milk. In
the days when breast feeding was considered somehow politically incorrect,
Carnation evaporated milk had the formula recipe on its can – it
always included extra sugar.
That still does not explain sugar’s allure. Now we are all grown
up. We no longer need mother’s milk. What good is sugar? Why do
we still crave it?
Some people are just not “sweets” people – they prefer
salty (potato chips), or savoury (rich flavors), or sour (lemonade, Kombucha),
or bitter (coffee, dark chocolate). Others go for the carbs every time
– milk chocolate, bread, Danish, doughnuts… And once they
start on the doughnuts, they have a hard time stopping. The box of candy
is good to the last piece on the bottom tier. Three spoonfulls of sugar
in their coffee…
Research has shown that sugar is highly addictive – as all of us
“carboholics” are well aware. We are not weak people, but
we are definitely addicted. And the first step out of addiction is to
admit that we have a problem. “The models that integrate motivational
systems with palatability and hedonic response studies are the ones that
we believe can best explain both craving for carbohydrates and related
addictive phenomena. “
The extent of the problem is well defined in the literature, although there
is some controversy. It’s little like the tobacco companies and
the smokers. Everyone knew that nicotine was highly addictive, but nobody
was willing to admit it, until the incidence of lung cancer became so
high that it was impossible to ignore.
One study found no association between insulin sensitivity, serotonin levels
and depression-associated obesity. Another study found that there was no influence of either a single high
protein vs high carbohydrate meal on salivary cortisol or mood.
Nevertheless, for those carbohydrate cravers who are well aware of their
reaction to sweets, a double-blind placebo-controlled study showed that
the carb cravers picked the high carb over the high protein drink when
their mood was unhappy, and that they said the high carb drink was more
palatable. “Results support the existence of a carbohydrate craving
syndrome in which carbohydrate ingestion medicates mildly dysphoric mood.”
So what can we do to relieve the addiction and even learn to love non-sugary
foods? Or at the very least how can we help ourselves learn to find them
-Decrease exposure (avoid the temptation)
-Do NOT indulge in artificial sweeteners – the body’s taste
buds do not know the difference, and insulin levels still go up
-Try low dose Naltrexone to block the addiction response
-Get enough sleep – lowers cortisol and insulin levels
-Remember Fen/Phen? It’s not worth damaging your heart in order to
curb the cravings. But there is another way. Sufficient levels of both
serotonin and dopamine in the brain will help to relieve the cravings
and restore balance to the brain-gut axis.
If you find that the cravings persist, despite your best efforts to turn
your back on the carbs, consider working with neurotransmitter precursors
for both serotonin and dopamine. It just might be the answer for you.