If you find it difficult to control your desire for chocolate, candy, cake, soft beverages, and stimulants in general, and if you struggle with tiredness, overweight, and other problems related to unstable blood sugar, you will be pleased to learn that Danish researchers have revealed that a hormone produced by the liver controls our desire for sweets and stimulants. The scientists therefore see a potential in developing a new type of medicine that can control the need for sugar. However, it is also possible to control your sugar cravings by means of simple dietary changes combined with supplements of chromium, a mineral that increases insulin sensitivity.
After you have consumed carbohydrates, the body breaks them down into glucose (dextrose), which provides fast and constant energy to your cells. However, as there is a limit to how much glucose can circulate in your blood and how much glucose you can store in your body, it is vital to burn this important fuel in an optimal way.
It is also important to know about the different kinds of carbohydrate. Although the brain needs sugar in the form of glucose, it is best if we avoid altogether or limit our intake of white sugar and other types of refined carbohydrate, also known as empty calories. Still, we are surrounded by sweet temptations wherever we go, and if you have a problem with controlling your intake, it is not necessarily a sign of a weak character. It may simply be a result of a variation of a gene that controls your desire for sweets, just like a chromium deficiency may be the cause.
The body’s energy providers
|Carbohydrate||Grain, bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, corn, fruit, refined sugar, alcohol|
|Protein||Meat, fish, shellfish, eggs, dairy products, legumes, nuts|
|Fats||Animal fat, plant oils, nuts, kernels, seeds, avocado|
|Carbohydrate has the greatest influence on blood sugar levels|
The liver hormone that controls your sweet tooth
Two researchers, Niels Grarup and Mathew Gillum, from the University of Copenhagen, have discovered that the need for sweets appears to be controlled by a liver hormone called FGF21 (Fibroblast Growth Factor). The hormone has many functions in the body. One is to control our appetite. After being secreted by the liver, the hormone travels with the bloodstream to the brain where it signals us when to stop eating sweets. However, some people with a special variation of the FGF21 gene are 20 percent more likely to have a larger desire for candy, alcohol, tobacco, and other stimulants. Niels Grarup says that earlier research has shown how this gene variation changes our need for protein and carbohydrate and specifically leads to an increased need for candy and sweets. It also turns out that FGF21 plays a role in diabetes, obesity, and fatty liver diseases.
Exercise is not enough
According to Professor Niels Jessen, Århus University, who conducts research in human metabolism, most weight loss strategies focus on exercise alone, but this is not enough. Appetite control is also important. The new Danish study clarifies some of the mechanisms involved in appetite and in the need for sweets and stimulants.
The discovery of the FGF21 hormone and the variation of this gene may possibly help science develop a new type of weight loss drug that takes our thoughts off sweets and helps us control our constant need for chocolate, cake, or alcohol.
So what really happens in the brain and the rest of the body when we consume too much sugar and too many sweets?
Did you know that you have to run for 20-30 minutes in order to burn the calories you get from eating a chocolate bar?
Your brain uses glucose as fuel – but be careful!
Under normal circumstances, the brain and nervous system only use glucose as fuel. The more the carbohydrates are refined and heated (like we see it with white sugar, white flour, and chips), the faster the glucose enter our bloodstream. This causes the pancreas to produce large amounts of insulin, the hormone that “unlocks” our cells and helps them absorb sugar. The brain gets a kick and produces large quantities of dopamine and serotonin, the body’s reward substances that make you feel good.
Soon after, the large concentrations of insulin make your blood sugar plummet, and the brain yearns for another blast of fast energy and “feel-good” substances.
These huge blood sugar fluctuations eventually exhaust the cellular insulin receptors and reduce their ability to take up sugar from the blood. This condition, which is known as insulin resistance, can easily develop into a vicious cycle with increased need for fast carbohydrates and stimulants that pose a threat to our health and mental well-being in the long run.
Insulin resistance makes the pancreas produce even more insulin, and this increases the risk of tiredness, overweight, inflammation, cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, and many other health problems that follow in the wake of elevated insulin levels.
Did you know that your brain only uses glucose as fuel, whereas your muscles and other tissues can make energy from glucose, fat, and protein?
Chromium improves the effect of insulin
Insulin channels glucose into our cells with help from chromium, a trace element that attaches to the insulin molecule and improves the cellular uptake of glucose. Working in close collaboration with insulin, chromium helps the uptake of glucose in brain cells, muscle cells, and cells in other tissues, which is what provides the necessary energy and prolonged satiation
Before buying a chromium supplement, it is important to know that the body is best able to utilize supplements based on organic chromium yeast. According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), organic chromium yeast is absorbed up to 10 times better than synthetically manufactured chromium sources like chromium picolinate and chromium chloride.
Solid main meals and chromium – the only way out of sugar abuse
Many people who stay off sugar or stimulants for a period end up with withdrawal symptoms or return to their abuse, because they neglect their main meals. There is no getting around the fact that you need three main meals every day with sufficient amounts of protein and coarse, green vegetables, which also provide essential fats. This contributes to maintaining stable blood sugar, which is important for long-term results and for the ability to stick with a healthy diet.
Another thing worth considering is a supplement of organic chromium yeast. Organic chromium yeast has the highest bioavailability and is considered the best choice for supplementation.
Beware of concealed sugar
There is a massive amount of sugar in soft beverages, candy, cookies, chocolate, fruit juice, cocoa milk, ketchup, jam, breakfast cereals, ready meals, pickles foods, sweets chili sauce etc. A lot of the sugar is concealed, so it is a good idea to study the food labels. It is also important to realize that there are many different names for sugar.
How much sugar may we consume?
According to WHO’s guidelines, the consumption of refined sugar for children and adults should not exceed 10% of their daily calorie intake. This is approximately half of the current average sugar intake. Some scientists claim we should reduce our sugar intake even more, especially because sugar can harm bone health.
Several sugar substitutes such as Stevia are available and contain far fewer calories.
Susanna Søberg et al. FGF21 Is a Sugar-Induced Hormone Associated with Sweet Intake and Preference in Humans. Cell Metabolism 2017
Den søde tand sidder i leveren. Videnskab.dk. maj 2017
Pernille Lund: Sådan får du styr på dit blodsukker og din vægt. Ny Videnskab 2013
John B Vincent: The Biochemistry of Chromium. The Journal of Nutrition2000
Kathleen DesMaison: Hvorfor sukker er farligt. Aschehoug 1998
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