Kristen R: (Don’t) Pass the pie – and other addictive carbs – please

25001371655192_Theyre-not-empty-carbs-theyre-packed-with-chocolate-chipsMmmm, pie. Come on, you know you love its warm, ooey-gooey goodness. But, did you know there’s new research suggesting that empty carbs, such as pie and bagels, can lead to more intense hunger and overeating?

A recent post on The Salt, which is an NPR blog that covers “food news from the farm to the plate and beyond,” cited a study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition which notes fast-digesting carbohydrates — yes, the pies and bagels of the world — can stimulate regions of the brain involved in cravings and addiction.

While the idea of food addiction is still controversial the study basically shows that this concept is gaining a little more momentum from researchers. This particular study compared two groups of overweight adults. Group A had to drink a milkshake with fast-digesting carbs; Group B had a milkshake with slower-digesting carbs. Other than that, the milkshakes were the same in calorie count and make.

Here’s what happened (excerpt from The Salt):

After [Group A] drank the rapidly digesting carb shake, their blood sugar spiked and then crashed four hours later. And it’s at this point that researchers documented activation of a part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens, a small area that is involved in emotions and addiction.  “The scans showed intense activation in brain regions involved in addictive behavior.”

The idea that certain foods may be addictive is controversial. Some scientists think it’s overstating the matter. And clearly it’s not settled as to whether activity in these brain regions would be seen widely in the population, or perhaps only among those who are overweight or prone to overeating.

As Dr. Robert Lustig, a professor of clinical pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, points out, this research can’t tell us if there’s a cause and effect relationship between eating certain foods and triggering brain responses, or if those responses lead to overeating and obesity.

“[The study] doesn’t tell you if this is the reason they got obese,” says Lustig, “or if this is what happens once you’re already obese.”

Nonetheless, Lustig told The Salt that he thinks this study offers another bit of evidence that “this phenomenon is real.” He has been a leading voice in suggesting that sugar is the cause of obesity and other health problems.

So what does this mean? Well, for me it’s reason to examine why I go through phases of sugar-cravings. At work, I can have mulitple days in a row where we have afternoon cake, cupcakes, bagels, and the like. After several days of this, I probably resemble Elaine from that episode of Seinfeld — the one where she’s jonsing for a sugar fix at 2 p.m. and, eventually, eats the really, really old cake.

I heard a dietician speak recently about what these sugar spikes and crashes look like. Seeing the blood sugar peaks and valleys on paper are what have me wanting to make a bigger change in my diet. I had planned on doing that last month, but my frustrating back pain had me leaning on comfort food as my consolation prize. So, I’m thinking of some serious diet over-hauling this month. What’s helped me in the past has been tracking my food, so I’ll be leaning on my iPhone (thank you, MyFitnessPal!) for some help in keeping up with what I’m eating.

Where to start? I’m going to try and cut out the empty carbs. It’s easier said than done, but that’s the plan.

What’s your take on this? Addictive? Absurd? All good things in moderation? Do you eat carbs or avoid them at all cost?

Running log below.

Gotta run,
Kristen R.

2013 mileage to date

KHP Art Below

Castle Progress - Maggie does not like me working downstairs at night. She pulls herself up from her little nest on her dog bed every 10 minutes or so.  She gently comes down and nudges me on the shoulder before she gives up and goes back to bed. I might need to bring one of her beds into the kitchen where I work.  Silly puppy.

Castle Progress – Maggie does not like me working downstairs at night. She pulls herself up from her little nest on her dog bed every 10 minutes or so. She gently comes down and nudges me on the shoulder before she gives up and goes back to bed. I might need to bring one of her beds into the kitchen where I work. Silly puppy.


About Kristen R.

Counting down to 40, while juggling motherhood, marriage, the corporate grind & middle-of-the-pack running. It's OK to point & laugh.
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10 Responses to Kristen R: (Don’t) Pass the pie – and other addictive carbs – please

  1. wwwmama says:

    I’m a moderation girl myself. There’s always temptation at work, so I try to load up on the healthy stuff isn’t he cafeteria so I’m notifying for the snacks. I do keep Hershey’s kisses nearby though and have one or two a day as needed. Now in my thirties that’s all I need to kill the craving. I do eat the carbs though.

    • Kristen R. says:

      I’m more of a moderation girl, too. I notice, though, if I get in the habit of eating certain things regularly (chocolate, chips, other bad stuff), I really crave them. So I just need to pay attention. However, if I had a bag of Kisses in my desk drawer, I would devour the entire bag in about 10 minutes!

  2. khpixler says:

    I am more a moderation girl too but I do believe that sugar is addictive. I know I feel better mentally and physically the few times I have been able to rid myself of simple carbs, wheat, sugar and caffeine. I am trying this month to see if I can be disciplined again. I do well for a short time and then I get lazy when I see improvements. It is like I think I fixed it so I go back. Nope.

    • Kristen R. says:

      You know, I do the same thing, but haven’t put it into words: I see results, so I get lazy. And, really, I see results and want to reward myself — and usually that reward is food. I’m glad you said that. Helps me focus on the issue and deal with it now that I’ve identified and said it out loud.

  3. lehorse says:

    Defo addictive, I am really trying to move onto natural sugers to try and ease my cravings for cake, choc, and the worst for me biscuits. So I am hitting Natural yogurts with berries like strawberries, blueberries etc.I am also looking at cutting bread down/out of my diet and eating only wholemeal when I have too. Good luck to you and so glad to see you are still doing it daily 🙂

    • Kristen R. says:

      I’m doing the same thing w/ what I’m eating. Maybe we could try to log it again. And, yes, still daily — but struggled when I was sick. That was tough! Glad you’re still out there daily, too!

  4. lehorse says:

    I am up for that if it helps, just let me know when you want to start off and so happy to hear you are getting over that ill patch

    • Kristen R. says:

      It was rough and I don’t mean that in a whiny way. Bad stuff. We can start anytime. I’ve been using My Fitness Pal to help me remember not eat those bad sugars. It keeps me honest 🙂 Maybe I’ll take some pics tomorrow and do my next post on that.

  5. lehorse says:

    Sounds like a plan how about Monday next week ?? I am looking at doing this in a couple of weeks

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