Curb your sugar cravings
Author: Philip Burt
Do you ever have a sudden overwhelming urge to eat something sweet, whether it be confectionary, ice cream or other sweet foods?
Many of us experience this sugar lust at some stage.
After satisfying this craving there is often an attack of the guilts. You know it wasn't such a good dietary move but you were almost powerless to avoid it. This phenomena is known as carbohydrate craving or sugar addiction.
There are two main causes of carbohydrate cravings: low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia), and stress/depression.
When you binge on high-sugar snacks, blood sugar levels increase significantly, resulting in increased insulin, which functions to lower blood sugar levels back to normal. Often insulin over-performs and lowers blood sugar to less-than-optimal levels. This vicious cycle of low blood sugar to high blood sugar back to even lower blood sugar causes an energy crash that makes you want to eat even more sugary foods to compensate for the crash. The cycle can be broken by helping insulin to normalise blood sugar levels.
Insulin's little helper is the mineral chromium picolinate, which makes your body's cells more sensitive to the effects of insulin. Numerous studies have shown that taking chromium picolinate supplements can curb excessive levels of insulin and make insulin receptors more responsive to its effects. By way of analogy, chromium picolinate helps to reset your body Ãs insulin and blood sugar thermostat. Without the peaks and troughs of high and low blood sugar and the subsequent craving to increase blood sugar levels, you no longer have the instinctual urge to consume high carbohydrate foods.
In 2005, researchers put chromium to the test by giving 113 carbohydrate cravers either daily chromium picolinate supplements or placebo pills for eight weeks. At the end of the study, the participants receiving chromium picolinate (but not the placebo) had almost totally overcome their frequent sugar cravings. What's more, they also had lower overall daily food intake, meaning that they didn't compensate for their sugar cravings by eating more from other food groups. The dosage of chromium picolinate used in this study was 600 mcg per day (3 x 200 mcg tablets per day).
The second major underlying cause of carbohydrate cravings is depression and stress. People who are stressed or depressed often have lower levels of a neurotransmitter named serotonin in their brains. Serotonin is responsible for feelings of wellbeing and happiness. Carbohydrate consumption increases the secretion of serotonin in the brain. Hence many stressed and depressed people learn to self-medicate (increase their brain serotonin levels) by overeating carbohydrates.
So if the real reason that carbohydrate cravers binge on sweet foods is because of a subconscious need to increase their brain serotonin levels to make themselves feel good, isn't there any other way to increase serotonin?
Yes there is!
Fortunately, the primary mechanism for the body's production of serotonin is via the conversion of an amino acid named tryptophan into this much needed neurotransmitter. Whey protein is a powdered supplement of all of the good elements of milk (not the carbohydrates, not the fat, only the beneficial protein components). One of the good proteins in whey protein is named alpha-lactalbumin and it contains particularly high levels of the serotonin-friendly building block, tryptophan. Well-conducted clinical studies have shown that a diet containing whey protein increases brain serotonin levels by 48% more than diets that don't include whey protein.
Therefore, whey protein can circumvent the desire to indulge in carbohyrates to increase serotonin, by providing tryptophan instead of carbohydrates as a building block for serotonin.
Whey protein also operates on another level to reduce overall appetite. It increases feelings of satiety (fullness) by increasing levels of a hormone named cholecystokinin (CCK). In one study, whey protein increased CCK levels by 60% more than other types of proteins.
The suggested dosage of whey protein for eliminating carbohydrate cravings is 20 to 25 grams per day.
Until you have successfully kicked your carbohydrate habit, it may be helpful to minimise the negative effects of over-indulging in sugary foods. Brindleberry contains a compound named hydroxycitric acid (HCA) that helps to prevent the sugars that you ingest from becoming body fat. HCA diverts your body's metabolism of carbohydrates away from the pathway that leads to body fat and redirects carbohydrate metabolism into the production of energy (a good thing for most people). Studies have shown that HCA also increases serotonin release in the brain by approximately 12%, which provides further support for its role in beating carbohydrate addiction.