We’ve finally moved past fat-phobia, and it’s now common knowledge that sugar is bad news. Because of that, I’ve noticed people no longer seem interested in sugar as a topic.
But obesity is epidemic, so it is worth looking at eating triggers.
Sugar is definitely an eating trigger – and not just for more sugar, although that does happen. It can make us want to eat more food in general, and that’s obviously not good.
In fact, sugar may trigger full-scale binge eating episodes.
This post is not about binge-eating disorder, detailed in the DSM-5. Instead, it’s about binge eating, which can, and does, occur without the frequency or emotional aspects of the disorder. This post will focus on binges that involve eating large amounts of food, even when not hungry.
How Can Sugar Make Me Binge Eat?
Sugar can make you binge in several ways. This post will cover three of them.
Sugar triggers brain release of endorphins (beta-endorphin). Endorphins affect the part of the brain that signals satiety – the feeling that we’ve had enough food and don’t need to eat more.
Satiety goes beyond just ending a meal at a certain point. After the meal is over, it keeps us from wanting to go back for more food. The part of the brain that houses the satiety center is the VMH (ventromedial hypothalamus, for the curious).
Endorphins stop the VMH from producing the feeling of satiety. So sugar may cause the meal to go on and on – and may also start the next meal much sooner than it otherwise would.
Does Sugar Affect Everyone That Way?
Sugar’s effect on satiety is common to most of us, but some people are more susceptible to the brain effects of sugar. That might include folks with a personal or family history of alcoholism or other addiction, depression or other mood disorders, or a personal history of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
Someone with one or more of these factors in his/her background may release more endorphins (beta-endorphin) when eating sugar. That could prevent the VMH from performing its satiety function for an extended time.
Then There Are Food Preferences
Endorphins change food preferences, making us want foods that trigger more endorphins. Those would be fats and more sugars.
Some explanations center on the “palatability” of sugars and fats, and that’s logical. Sugars and fats taste great.
But it’s the change in the brain because of the endorphins that makes us want different foods – and those foods further encourage binge eating.
The next post will cover another way sugar might make you binge.
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