The Richmond Register

July 19, 2013

Here’s how to reduce food cravings

By Dr. Jack Rutherford

RICHMOND — The best way to control your appetite and get rid of food cravings is to stay clear of refined, high glycemic index carbohydrates.

This category of carbs has been shown to trigger excessive hunger and actually activate regions of the brain responsible for food cravings.

In a recent study, 12 overweight males were fed one of two test meals (milkshakes). The milkshakes were identical in taste, sweetness and calories but differed in glycemic index. One milkshake contained a high glycemic carbohydrate mix (rapidly digested), while the other contained a low glycemic index mix (slowly digested).

Once the subjects had consumed the test meal, their blood glucose and hunger levels were monitored and MRI scanning was used to examine their brain activity.

The subjects who had consumed high glycemic index meal experienced a surge in their blood glucose levels soon after feeding, followed by a steep crash some three to four hours later. They also reported being very hungry after the drop in blood glucose. Moreover, their MRI scans showed intense activation in the regions of the brain responsible for cravings and addictive behavior.

Appetite control is essential for successful weight control. And to do that, you must avoid high glycemic carbs. They are easy to distinguish because they are white – white flour products, white potatoes, white rice and sugar. Collectively, they are known as the great white hazards. Replace them with 100-percent whole grains and beans.

You should also limit foods that are especially high in fat, sugar or both (donuts, ice cream, cheesecake, cakes, pastries, cookies, and other sweets, potato chips, cheeseburgers, French fries, and other fast food.

Some studies have found that these foods are ultra-addicting, literally rewiring our brains in such a way that we not only crave them, but can’t stop eating them once we start. Scientists have dubbed this syndrome “conditioned hypereating.”

Replace sugary foods with fruits and non-starchy vegetables that provide plenty of water and fiber, yet are low in calories. Their bulk aids in weight control by filling you up.

Don’t forget about liquid calories too. Research suggests that these culprits may be the most fattening of all calories. They often contain both glucose and fructose, which increases hunger and slows metabolism. Drink water or diet drinks instead.

Finally, get enough sleep and don’t skip breakfast. Both are important for the waistline.