New research supports the existence of “Carb Addiction” and gets a look at what happens inside the brain of individuals consuming high carb meals, compared to those consuming low glycemic index meals. Many of us identify with the term “carb addict”, in a light-hearted way to describe some of the difficulties we encounter during a weight loss effort. However, in light of recent scientific findings carb addiction is looking to be far more fact than fiction and we’re starting to better understand the benefits of a low-carb diet.
Over the last few years, scientists have made significant breakthroughs in the process of understanding eating habits and their relation to weight gain. Additional insight has been added by the recent study: “Effects of dietary glycemic index on brain regions related to reward and craving in men” published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
This study used a technique known as functional MRI scanning in order to watch the brain activity as study participants consumed high glycemic index “GI” milkshakes. The study compared brain activity following the consumption of the high carb milkshakes to what occurs in the brain after individuals consumed milkshakes made to have a low glycemic index “low GI”.
The researchers found, as in other studies, that consumption of the high carb meal sharply increased blood sugar levels, leading to a crash in blood sugar levels shortly thereafter. This crash was followed by a significant increase in hunger and desire for additional high carb foods. The researchers noted that when the “rebound” hunger occurred following the crash caused by the high carb milkshake, a considerable increase in brain activity occurred in regions of the brain specifically associated with “reward & craving”.
Over the years this same pattern of increased activity in the region of the brain known as the nucleus accumbens, has been observed in the brains of individuals who crave powerfully addictive substances such as cocaine and heroin.
As scientific discovery continues to shed light onto the processes that drive our food choices and eating habits, we will be able to continue to focus our weight loss efforts on recommending nutritional and lifestyle plans to support decreased levels of addictive brain activity vs. focusing primarily on low calorie intake.