My personal experience has now been ‘confirmed’ by science – carbohydrates are addictive (Sunday Times, 5 Sep 10 – Fat fix…). I have seen it with my own eyes, though I’m not convinced that ‘addictive’ is the correct term. Perhaps ‘strong cravings’ is really a better description!
My experience comes from Mike. We have been trying to eat a bread/biscuit/cake free diet. So no wheat or processed sugary foods. When we are being good and avoiding all those high carbohydrate, sugary foods, we have no desire for them. However as soon as Mike has just one biscuit or just one piece of cake he is hankering for more – almost foaming at the mouth!
Now it’s ‘official’ as it seem studies show that high sugar diets affect our response to dopamine, which is our ‘feel good’ hormone in the same way that cocaine, tobacco and alcohol does. This apparently causes us to eat more of the junk food to reach the same level of wellbeing and hence we get fat.
As always the science gets confusing, because another source (Debra Waterhouse – Why Women Need Chocolate) reckons that carbohydrates break down to glucose to produce serotonin (apparently women are more sensitive due to our estrogen). Either way, serotonin is also responsible for producing feelings of calm, relaxation and peacefulness – so you still feel good!
Of course there are 2 types of carbohydrate – complex starches and simple sugars – and both are made of glucose. However complex carbs are made up of hundreds of glucose molecules attached together so it takes a couple of hours for all the energy to be broken down and absorbed into your blood. Hence you receive a slow & steady source of energy to your brain which should maximise your productivity and concentration.
In contrast, sugar is a simple carbohydrate made of up of only 2 glucose molecules per chain. This means they are simple to eat, simple to digest and simple to absorb. Hence sugar provides a quick boost of serotonin levels. This may sound great, but then within as little as 30 minutes blood sugar levels plummet, resulting in a significant drop in energy and mood, making you feel tired, irritable and lethargic. And then you’re likely to crave sugar again as your brain is requesting a pick-me-up! So with simple sugars, your moods, energy and productivity are on a constant roller coaster ride…
Is the answer to the sweet tooth craving to eat artificial sweeteners? Apparently not according to Debra Waterhouse & Stefan Gates (BBC 2 – E Numbers documentary) – you may be able to fool your taste buds, but you can’t fool your brain… Fake foods don’t have the same effects on the brain as the real thing. Your taste buds send a message to your brain telling it that sugar is on its way, but the fake sugar does not produce the serotonin or dopamine that your brain is expecting, so you’re left unsatisfied, or even worse, dissatisfied… It wants more, intensifying the craving for sweet things!
It appears that over the past years, as the intake of artificial sweeteners has risen, so has the intake of real sugar!
Sugar is added to nearly all processed foods. This is even more so with ‘low fat’ foods – because the fat is reduced, they add sugar to make it taste appealing! Have a read of the labels next time you pick up something in the supermarket… Don’t forget that simple sugars come in a variety of forms – sugar, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), fructose, dextrose, glucose etc. Even agave syrup has been claimed to be as bad as HFCS!
I think processed food keeps us on a constant sugar craving, perhaps even an addiction! When I lived in the USA, I was amazed that even the bread had sugar added to it.
Tobacco companies were caught out because they knew of the addictive nature & suppressed the information. I wonder if the same thing will happen to the sugar industry…