Imagine devouring a plate of white pasta or a pile of sugary cookies. First your blood sugar soars (and the guilt sets in if you’re following Atkins!). Then, suddenly, your blood sugar drops to new lows. Four hours later, you’re hungry again (more hungry than if you had eaten a meal consisting of protein, fiber and fewer carbs), and you’re craving more cookies or pasta. I am sure you have encountered this vicious cycle (I like to call it carb rollercoaster). And now a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and conducted by researchers from Harvard Medical school and Boston Children’s Hospital, supports the theory that these refined carbs not only mess with your waistline, but they mess with your brain.
When the obese and overweight subjects in the study were fed a high-glycemic meal, they experienced a subsequent drop in blood sugar and increase in hunger and cravings compared to when the subjects were fed a lower glycemic meal. The study authors hypothesized that the sharp drop in blood sugar caused by those refined carbs in the high-glycemic meal not only stimulates hunger but also makes the idea of eating more of this stuff seem more rewarding and pleasurable to your brain. On the other hand, whole grains and carbs found in vegetables take a longer time to break down, which means you stay full for longer, and your blood sugar rises more slowly, also making you less likely to succumb to cravings.
According to the authors, this study suggests that limiting these refined carbs could help overweight people stop overeating. In other words, avoiding refined carbs (white flour, sugar, corn syrup, etc.) and focusing on protein, healthy fats, fiber and fewer carbs—for example, eating the way that’s recommended on Atkins—might be a good weight loss strategy. To this, I say a resounding “Duh!”