Have a sugar tooth? If you do it might be your number one health challenge. Sugar has been identified as extremely dangerous to our mental and physical health if not consumed in moderation. Studies have shown direct correlations between disease and sugar consumption and have gone so far to say that sugar can make you stupid. That’s right, too much sugar can decrease your brain’s operating efficiency.
If you feel safe because you rarely reach for the company donuts or cookies remember that our bodies break down carbohydrates into sugars as well so overconsumption of food can also place you in the “sugar risk” category.
We have written in the past about hedonic and homeostatic hunger . Sugar cravings are caused fall into the hedonic category and there are some great strategies for defeating them without too much extra effort.
One simple way to beat sugar cravings is to walk more. Sounds simple yet a great majority of Americans are walking less than ½ the minimally recommended amount of steps per day.
Walking has a reductive impact on hedonic hunger and sugar cravings. This fact was again confirmed by a study from the University of Innsbruck which examined the impact of 15 minute walks on treadmills on the sugar cravings of their study subjects.
Study subjects abstained from sugary foods for three days prior to the start of the study. They fasted as well drinking nothing but water and avoided any exercise for tow hours prior to testing for sugar cravings. They were then allowed a two minute warm up period before being asked to walk briskly on a treadmill for 15 minutes (at a speed that would not make them breathless). The control group was asked to sit passively for the test duration of 15 minutes with no exercise at all.
At the end of the 15 minute sessions both groups sat for a 5 minute period and were then administered a computerized test which was purposely designed to increase levels of physiological arousal and stress. They were then asked to unwrap a piece of candy and abstain from eating it. Throughout this process they were asked questions reflective of their food cravings, stress and arousal levels.
Those subjects exercising on the treadmill reported statistically significant lower levels of cravings both during the middle and the end of the experiment than those study subjects who remained physically inactive.
Why does this occur? Apparently mild exercise can trigger metabolic processes that make more blood sugar available to the brain satiating its internal hunger thermostat. It may also work to block the cravings due to other internal processes not yet fully understood.
While some exercise can make individuals crave food and sugar more (think Michael Phelps and his 15,000 calorie daily regimen) walking along with some foods (such as spinach) has been shown repeatedly to curb cravings.
Scientists also know that walking helps balance blood sugars in the body which not only helps to curb cravings but also helps people who otherwise experience a post meal lethargy (luncheon siesta syndrome).