Probably one of the most notorious reasons behind weight gain is sugar cravings. Fortunately, even though controlling your sweet tooth takes effort, it is not impossible. To learn to control sugar cravings, it is important to understand the root of the issue by looking into the genetic factors that might affect why we get addicted to sugar.
Why do humans crave sugar?
First, humans are biologically wired to crave sugar. This means that your cravings are not unnatural. After all, as hunter-gatherers, early humans needed a lot of stored energy so our bodies have adapted to seek and store sugar. A sweet taste also served as a sign that something is likely edible and rich in energy. Breast milk is also sweet, and it serves as babies’ primary food. During the advent of agriculture, sugar suddenly became much more accessible.
However, humans went from being active to being dormant, hence decreasing the need for stored energy. Unfortunately, the biological cravings remained.
Is sugar naturally bad?
The difference between naturally occurring sugar and processed sugar is important to note. Fruits and vegetables have sugar content, but this type is digested more slowly, which makes it a great source of energy. These foods are also rich in vital vitamins, minerals, and fibre. On the other hand, processed sugar has no nutritional value and does not benefit the body.
Now, the effects of sugar on the body include stimulating the production of hormones called serotonin and endorphins, which make us feel good. This is the reason why we feel a lot better after eating a bar of chocolate.
But this positive effect of sugar is only temporary. Its negative effects, on the other hand, are much more long-lasting and are harder to reverse. Some of the consequences of eating too much sugar are the following:
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Poor dental health
The Genetics of Sugar Cravings
Because humans have evolved to crave sugar, the answer as to why you can’t resist that slice of cake can be found in your DNA. In fact, when you undergo a DNA test, you can find out more information on how likely you are to have a sweet tooth.
Then again, not everyone has the same level of cravings. A study showed that the ADRA2A gene can be partially blamed for this genetic predisposition. A team of researchers studied 1000 individuals, and they found that participants with an unfavourable variant of said gene had a harder time resisting sweets. They also indulged in sugar and carbs more often than those without.
Another factor to consider is how people’s tastes differ. In particular, some people taste sweet less intensely, which is why they tend to add more sugar to their food. In this case, the SLC2A gene is the culprit. This gene contributes to the amount of sugar we consume, and having an unfavourable variant of this gene makes a person less sensitive to sweet.
Stopping Sugar Cravings Effectively
Even though you are genetically predisposed to have a sweet tooth, it does not mean you cannot do anything about it. Here are some simple steps you can do to reduce your sugar cravings and intake.
- Eat fruits instead of dessert. When the sugar cravings hit, instead of reaching for a piece of cookie, get yourself a banana. A piece of fruit is enough to satisfy your sweet tooth, and your body will benefit from its nutrients and fibre.
- Stop eating desserts at the end of your meal. It’s very likely that you are no longer hungry at this point.
- Switch to sugar alternatives. There are various sugar alternatives available in the market, such as stevia and monk fruit.
- Distract yourself. Sugar cravings often hit at a certain point of the day, like during the mid-afternoon. Observe when the cravings hit you and plan an activity (like walking the dog) to distract yourself from them.
- Indulge a little. Completely denying one’s self of sweets does not work for most people and can only intensify the cravings. It is completely okay to allow yourself a small amount of sugar once in a while.
Take our Health and Fitness DNA test to learn your genetic predispositions and gain access to information that will allow you to be in better control of your well-being.
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