Are Carbs Causing Your Cravings?

If you've ever found yourself hungry and full of cravings not long after finishing a meal, your food choices may be to blame.

According to a new study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, high-glycemic carbohydrates appear to affect the brain in a way that may lead to overeating. Researchers fed 12 overweight or obese men two milkshakes on two different days. The shakes were the same as far as calories, taste, and protein, fat, and carb content, but one was made with high-glycemic carbs and the other with low-glycemic carbs.

The high-GI drink caused blood sugar levels to fall into the hypoglycemic range, increased hunger, and stimulated part of the brain associated with reward and cravings—all at about the time that people are ready for their next meal.

This study has limitations, specifically the size of the group and that it was based on only two meals. However, I found it interesting and would love to more research in this area because a lot of studies to date conducted on the GI, specifically as it pertains to weight loss, have been inconclusive.

Glycemic index is a measure of a food’s ability to raise blood sugar determined by typically eating 50 grams of carbohydrate. The problem that I and many other experts have is that there can be a high degree of variation in blood glucose response to certain foods within individuals based on many factors such as timing of meal and what other foods were eaten with that meal.

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Also the GI doesn’t compare actual serving sizes or take grams of fiber into the calculation. For example, premium ice cream (GI = 38) and peanut M&M's (GI = 33) would appear to be the better choice compared to a banana (GI = 62) or sweet potato (GI = 70), and I cannot in good conscience agree with that.

I will continue promoting whole foods (especially fruits and veggies), regardless of where they fall on the GI, as opposed to overly processed foods. I have found my patients experience less hunger and cravings throughout the day when they consume meals rich in fiber with adequate protein and healthy fat; for example, a lunch of a turkey and avocado sandwich on 100-perent whole-wheat bread with an apple for dessert.

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