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The Science of Sugar Cravings

Why is it you can start a healthy eating regimen with the best of intentions, but before you know it, sugar cravings have crept in? If you’ve experienced this, you’re not alone. Sugar cravings can strike in many different ways— from feeling tired, like you need something sugary to boost your energy levels, to simply pining after a sweet treat.

Sugar cravings aren’t just in your head. Science shows that cravings are real and that your individual biology can help predict how strongly they’ll hit you. Here’s how it works:

It all starts in the liver.

When you think about sugar cravings you probably don’t think about your liver. However, scientists have discovered that the organ plays an important role in regulating sugar cravings. Research has found that a hormone produced in the liver sends a signal to the brain that can increase or decrease sugar cravings. People with higher levels of the hormone, FGF21, have reported fewer sugar cravings.

Scientists have also theorized that obese people are resistant to FGF21. Because they don’t respond to the hormone that normally decreases sugar cravings, they may experience more cravings than the average person.

But the brain plays a big role too.

Sugar affects many areas of your brain, including the dopamine system, which is the brain’s reward center. People who are addicted to drugs experience euphoria because of the way the drugs affect their dopamine system. And sugar addiction works in a similar way. The sweet stuff makes us feel good, so we want to seek it out again: that’s what fuels the sugar craving cycle.

Fatty foods get a bad reputation, but one study found that people crave sugar much more than they crave fat. Because of this, the study recommends that policy makers and individuals who are trying to promote healthy eating primarily focus on reducing sugar intake in order to improve health.

The more you eat sweets, the more you want sweets.

If you’ve ever sworn to have “just one” piece of candy and found yourself inexplicably pulled back for more, you’re proof that the more sugar you eat, the more you want. It’s not just about the taste. Because of how sugar affects your brain you’re left wanting more of it the more you eat—just like people who abuse drugs build a tolerance.

Science shows that eating sugar causes you to crave more sugar, so it’s best to limit sugar to 25 grams a day, as recommended by the American Heart Association.

Sugar cravings are hard to deal with, but with the help of Sweet Defeat, you can stay on track with your low-sugar lifestyle.