Stop Craving Sugar

  • 27 Nov 2015
  • Reading time 8 mins
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Everyone likes sugar, and the more you have the more you want. You get used to higher and higher levels of sweetness so that after a while the desire for sweet foods can literally take over.

Often, if you are eating excess sugar you will also suffer from hyperactivity, im-pulsive behaviour and poor concentration. Too much sugar leads to blood sugar peaks and troughs. The troughs make you tired, so if you have a sugar habit you will proba-bly also go for caffeinated drinks and other stimulants to counter the sugar blues. Sugar, just like cocaine and heroin, stimulates dopamine and endorphins, leading to reward deficiency.1

Dr Candace Pert, Research Professor in the Department of Physiology and Bio-physics at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington DC, says ‘I consider sugar to be a drug, a highly purified plant product that can become addictive. Relying on an artificial form of glucose – sugar – to give us a quick pick-me-up is analogous to, if not as dangerous as, shooting heroin’.2

What is more, whether you have a serious sugar problem or a mild one, just sub-stituting foods or drinks with artificial sweeteners doesn’t reset your sweet tooth. As with any addiction it takes time and good nutrition to get your brain’s chemistry back into balance.

What sugar does

Of course, with too much sugar comes other problems such as weight gain, diabe-tes, heart disease, kidney problems, thrush, failing eyesight and numbness in the fin-gers and toes. You might have decided to curb your sweet tooth because of one of these problems or just because you recognise that you have become addicted.

How you might feel when you quit

If you just quit all sugar and sweet foods completely, with none of the nutritional support we recommend, you will simply crave it. You may feel more tired and low, lacking in motivation. It takes about a week for these symptoms to recede to an ex-tent. It takes a week for your blood sugar levels to adjust to the lack of a constant, daily fix.

How supplements will help

On the other hand, if you also take the amino acid, vitamins and mineral supple-ments that I recommend, the results are very different. This is because a lot of people crave sugar due to an underlying serotonin deficiency. By giving the right amino acids to correct this (mainly tryptophan and/or 5-HTP) sugar cravings often reduce sub-stantially and, with that, excessive weight gain.

A good example of this is a study involving a group of carbohydrate bingers. Those who were put on a low-carb diet and also took the amino acid supplements for 90 days lost an average of 12.25kg (1 stone 13lb/27lb) and only 18 per cent relapsed. They were compared to a group not taking the supplement that lost an average of 4.5kg (10lb) and had a relapse rate of 82 per cent.3

Richard Wurtman, a professor of brain and cognitive science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, believes that some people crave carbohydrates not because they lack willpower but because of an imbalance in serotonin. This theory is supported by evidence that obese people and people who crave carbohydrates often have lower serotonin levels than do lean people or people who prefer protein-rich snacks. Their extra-low serotonin levels leave them feeling anxious, irritable and craving a serotonin ‘fix’. The reason why sugar works is that sugar causes a release of insulin, and insulin carries tryptophan in the blood into the brain, where it can be con-verted into serotonin. This is probably why you crave sugar when you’re feeling low, and feel better for it, and why we give upset children something sweet and they perk up.

Chromium, which helps insulin to work, also substantially reduces craving, as well as improving mood. It halves cravings in eight weeks and improves mood in people prone to depression in two out of three who supplement 600mcg a day.4 It works even better if combined with an extract of cinnamon called Cinnulin.

Do you need to quit completely?

Sugar itself is not bad – it just becomes so when you have too much. It is also re-fined and thus devoid of the nutrients, especially B vitamins, vitamin C and chromi-um, needed to turn it into energy.

Having said that, to break the habit, it is best to set yourself a clear line: nothing with added sugar. There are many names for sugar, including:

  • Glucose (syrup)
  • Dextrose
  • Malt
  • Honey
  • Sucrose
  • Fructose

These are best avoided, although fructose has half the effect on your blood sugar as sucrose, which has almost half of the effect of glucose. So, fructose is the lesser of these evils.

This also means avoiding chocolate, which is high in sugar. However, the occa-sional dark chocolate (with 70 per cent cocoa solids), which is low in sugar, is no big deal as long as you don’t eat a bar a day.

Instead, eat whole fruits, which provide fructose and supportive nutrients. The best fruits are apples, pears, berries, cherries, plums and peaches. Oranges aren’t bad, but watch out for guzzling loads of juice. As a rule of thumb, don’t have more than the juice of one orange per day or an equivalent amount of apple juice. Dilute this with one-third water. Then, after the first week, start diluting half and half with water. Have a maximum of two such juices a day.

Sugar-free alternatives

One of the best natural sugars is xylose, also called xylitol. About two-thirds of the natural sugar in berries, cherries and plums is xylose, which tastes sweet but doesn’t raise your blood sugar level. Nine teaspoons of xylitol has the same effect on your blood sugar level as one teaspoon of sugar or honey. Nowadays, you can buy ......

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