Do you experience sugar cravings? Do you eat sweets or sugary beverages on a regular basis? Do you want to know why this might be? A recent study helps explain it. Researchers presented a study at the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging’s 2013 annual meeting that found that sugary drink intake in people with insulin resistance—the precursor to high blood sugar and type 2 diabetes—triggered a decrease in the release of dopamine in the pleasure center of the brain.
Dopamine is the neurotransmitter involved in reward. When dopamine is low, we seek out activities that release more dopamine, like seeking a reward. So if only a small amount of dopamine is released when we drink a sugary beverage or eat a sweet treat, we will crave more so that the pleasure center of our brain feels sufficiently rewarded.
Vicious cycle indeed.
The researchers stated, “We suggest that insulin resistance and its association with less dopamine release in a central brain reward region might promote overeating to compensate for this deficit.” I find this interesting because many people have insulin resistance and don’t know it. Even if you have normal blood sugar and are seemingly healthy, you might still have insulin resistance. And if you tend to eat a lot of sweets (which means you probably crave them), it’s likely you have insulin resistance.
There are other reasons for craving sweets, but this one sure makes a lot of sense. And now we see why it’s such a difficult cycle to break. However, I can tell you that once you stop the cycle—and get though the “withdrawal” phase—those sugar cravings begin to fade until you forget what they were like in the first place. You wake up one day and realize the cravings are gone, and you feel so much better. Break the vicious cycle.