March 15, 2018 – How chocolate and sugary things may prime your brain to want more
If you do an online search about sugar, you may become convinced that it’s evil and addictive — and that your sweet tooth will lead you to ruin. You’ll also see plenty of advice for how to curb your craving for sugary goodness.
But what do we really know about how sugar affects us? Does eating sugar make us want to eat more of it?
First things first. Sugar is a carbohydrate, a category that includes starches. In addition to tasting sweet on your tongue, a spoonful of table sugar — in a cup of coffee, for example — will cause the sugar, or glucose, level in your blood to rise.
Your body responds differently to eating an apple, which is loaded with fruit sugars. For the same amount of carbohydrate, table sugar will prompt a much bigger spike in blood glucose than a few bites of apple.
That’s because the apple’s sugars are “in natural form, in the whole fruit,” says David Ludwig, a physician and professor of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “The sugar is sequestered in the structure of the fruit, and it leaches out slowly.” In contrast, the sugar in sodas and candy, he says, “slams into the liver and raises blood glucose.”
This is what nutritionists are talking about when they cite a food’s glycemic index. A food with a high glycemic index raises blood glucose more than a food with a medium or low glycemic index. A rule of thumb is that the more processed, or refined, a food is, the higher its glycemic index, according the American Diabetes Association.
It’s not just sugary foods, either: White bread is a high glycemic index food, and potato chips fall in the medium category.
Scientists believe that the rise in blood glucose is responsible for the craving one feels for certain foods. “Sugary foods and refined carbohydrates cause a blood-sugar spike,” says Ashley Gearhardt, a psychologist at the University of Michigan. “And then three to four hours later, a blood-sugar crash. That cycle primes your brain and makes you want more of those foods.”
To read more of this article, originally published in The Washington Post, click on the title link.