How Blood Sugar Levels Influence Food Cravings

Friday, August 17, 2012
By: Byron J. Richards,
Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist
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Of course you know what a good diet is, and what you are supposed to be eating. But then along comes one of those nasty cravings for your favorite excess calorie food, and just as sure as the sun follows darkness, your diet will now have to start tomorrow. How did this happen? Could it be that your willpower is just incredibly weak? Or is it a more sinister plot, one that involves survival gone wrong?

A human study using brain imaging scans while monitoring blood sugar levels helps shed light on this very important topic. The issue is actually rather simple, and can be summed up as follows: At what point does your rather animalistic and stimulus-response subconscious brain exert so much power over your higher powered consciousness that you now eat things you know you shouldn’t?

Your subconscious brain is all about survival. For example, when a car pulls in front of you and you swerve to get out of the way, you do not stop to ponder your behavior and plan a careful course of action. Indeed, your subconscious brain senses a threat to survival and takes over complete control of your body so that you can react and survive—powerful stuff. 

Food acquisition is all about survival and is tied, potentially, to these same powerful forces. Your brain runs on blood sugar; a steady flow of sugar to your brain indicates that everything is normal, and there is no need to panic. However, this study shows that when blood sugar drops too low then your conscious level control center loses control and your subconscious control center takes over and demands that you eat high calorie food and do so now, as if you are trying to avoid some type of auto accident. I’m not making excuses for weak-willed people who don’t even try to control what they eat. I’m simply saying there is more to this issue than conscious willpower.

While any person will eventually get low blood sugar at some point if he or she doesn’t eat, a majority of Americans have physically unfit blood sugar metabolism systems that cause wild fluctuations in the blood sugar levels entering their brains. This in turn triggers food cravings so as to survive. This problem is due to overeating in general and snacking in particular, which dysregulate the leptin, insulin, and adiponectin systems that govern how sugar should be regulated under healthy circumstances. It is like having flabby and unfit muscles, except this is a flabby and unfit ability to get sugar to your brain in the proper way. Birdbrain doctors and nutritionists think you should snack to keep your blood sugar system stoked with fuel, not realizing that excess food consumption is actually causing the problem. Sure, you are supposed to get a snack between meals, but it is supposed to be coming from the sugar stored in your liver, not from new food you consume. 

Eating according to The Five Rules of The Leptin Diet will eventually restore fitness to your blood sugar system, and you will be able to go many hours without excess cravings for food. Just like you may need to condition yourself over time to be fit enough to consistently go for a lengthy jog, so it is that you may need some time to condition the fitness of your blood sugar system to be normal again. Be sure to get a high protein and high fiber breakfast. Many nutrients can help you if your craving system is weak. Pine nut oil is one of my favorites. Many other nutrients specifically help smooth out blood sugar regulation, like cinnamon and chromium, to mention a few.  As you improve, your cravings will go away. Until then, realize that while willpower is important, controlling cravings and eating healthfully takes more than just willpower. Use enough nutritional support to keep yourself on track.

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