From Ronald Hoffman, MD.
Undoubtedly, one of this year’s most popular New Year’s resolutions will be to “cut down on sugar”—especially after the non-stop potlatch most of us have experienced in December. But it’s not easy, because one of the most fundamental hard-wired human drives is to seek out readily-available high-test carbohydrate fuel—an evolutionary adaptation that facilitated survival in times of scant resources, when every calorie was hard-earned.
But no longer do we need to scale sheer cliffs and withstand painful stings to raid an enticing beehive for its honey, as did our hunter-gatherer forebears; instead, sugar is ubiquitous and requires no exertion to sate our cravings.
Instead, we have to impose science-based restraints on our biologic inclinations. Here are some of the most promising:
Curb your insulin: Sugar and carb consumption invokes an insulin response; the more you consume, the more insulin is required to dispose of excess glucose. Unfortunately, insulin promotes storage of excess calories as fat. It also drives blood sugar down, resulting in hypoglycemia, which intensifies sugar cravings. The result is a blood sugar roller coaster, with ever-higher peaks and valleys. Ultimately, insulin resistance develops and glucose ascends into the diabetic range. Part of a program to tame inordinate sugar cravings involves reining in sky-high insulin by gradually reducing all carbs. It’ll make it easier to jettison sugar when your elevated insulin is no longer driving your sweet tooth.
Add protein: The “Protein Balance” theory of weight control posits that humans seek a requisite amount of protein from their diets. When bio-available protein is scant in foods—as when people subsist on starchy fare while eschewing reliable sources of essential amino acids from meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy—they need to graze on more food to obtain their daily protein ration. It may be that for some, adequate protein, with its satiety effects, displaces the need for sugar-laden treats. This is said to be a reason to have adequate protein for breakfast to head off carb-cravings later in the day.