Are You Hooked On Carbs?


Research at the University of Auckland has found that the heavily processed carbohydrates in cheaper foods and snacks can get you hooked. The sugar-rush they trigger stimulates the same areas of your brain as nicotine and other addictive drugs. Find out how you can become a slave to carbs and what you can do to kick the habit at every step.


A: The Pick Up

Carbs are sugars and starches that are prevalent in foods such as pasta, bread, cereal, potatoes, biscuits, sweetened drinks and beer. When you eat carbs your body secretes the hormone insulin, which regulates blood-sugar levels.

UP YOUR MAGNESIUM: The mineral plays a key role in carb control but is excreted through the kidneys due to the intake of refined sugars. Supplement with 300g a day. This was found by the journal Diabetes Care to regulate insulin release, even in those with type-2 diabetes.


B: The Fix

The carbs are quickly digested into glucose. “The resulting sugar-rush in your blood-stream activates the same reward centre in the mid-brain that gives a sense of a hit or ‘high’,” says Dr Simon Thornley, a leading researcher into food addiction.

CONTROL YOUR PORTIONS: Starchy carbs should be part of your diet. Just don’t overdo it. UK Food Standards Agency research found a link between people’s ever-larger conception of portion size and weight gain. Limit carbs at meals to a fist-sized amount.


C: The High

Having high blood-sugar levels isn’t good for you, so your body responds by producing more insulin to bring them down. But the effect of the insulin is to encourage your body to store energy as fat.

STICK TO YOUR DRINK: Alcohol and caffeine were found by the University of Maryland to increase cortisol levels – a stress hormone that triggers fat storage. Moderate levels are acceptable but regularly combining the two is less advisable. If you’re on wine during dinner, skip the coffee.


D: The Come-Down

Eat too many carbs too often and your liver becomes increasingly resistant to insulin. Greater resistance means more carbs are needed to achieve the ‘high’. “Foods high in sugar are generally not filling and can become habit forming,” says Dr Myness of the British Nutrition Foundation.

THE RIGHT ‘FIVE-A-DAY’: Eating fruit and veg helps to prevent the build up of insulin resistance. Opt for ‘slow-release’ options such as lentils, split peas, any beans or pulses and plain peanuts.


E: The Re-Up

The combination of insulin resistance and a high-carb habit means excess blood-sugar is stored as even more fat, and you gain weight. The heavier you are, the more carbs your body craves. You go back to your dealer to pick-up a fresh hit.

BEAT CRAVINGS AFTER DINNER: Treat yourself on a full stomach. A study at University College London found those who ate chocolate straight after dinner decreased their dependence on cocoa.



Words by David Morton. Illustration by Kerem Shefik


If you liked this article, you’ll love these: