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The psychology of carbohydrate addiction

23 February 2015, 11:10Chandré-Morgan Roberths

Dr Robert Cywes, who will be speaking tomorrow at the Old Mutual low-carb, high-fat Health Convention (hosted by professor Tim Noakes) says carbohydrate addiction is very real and “the reason why fat people struggle with obesity and sticking to weight loss programmes”.

Obesity in adolescents

South African born Dr. Cywes, (who has published several studies on gastric surgery) and his team at Palm Beach Children's Hospital – St. Mary's Medical Centre are active in obesity research; including an ongoing Adolescent Bariatric Surgery trial. He has become one of the leading authorities in the treatment and management of obesity in adolescents, and was the first surgeon in Northeast Florida to be certified to perform the LAP-BAND® surgery.

In his blog Why do we get fat?, Dr. Cywes explains in layman’s terms why people fail at diet programmes and get fat from food, when "it is impossible to get fat from eating food".

He adds to this by stating that all human beings eat for two reasons: We eat for the nutritional value of the food, and we eat for the emotional value.

Read: Brain scans can now confirm a food addiction

According to Dr. Cywes, when we’re eating for the nutritional value of food, our bodies are very good at regulating what we need and how much we consume.  

“Your body has an on/off switch function to regulate how much food with nutritional value you eat. When you get hungry, you eat a certain amount of food, and if there’s no ulterior motive to eat it – when the hunger’s gone; you’re full.”

However, Dr Cywes explains that the above happens when we eat foods that are not of any nutritional value because the body reacts to this kind of food as it would to a type of drug. It registers as a non-nutritional meal and our brains immediately feels "high" as a result of of the chemicals that eating these foods releases into our bodies.

“The body does not regulate the times when we eat for emotional value. When you’re having fun with food, more is always better – and the body doesn’t regulate that. You have to have very tight boundaries around how much you eat when you’re having fun, and what you eat.”

Dr Cywes says foods such as steak, broccoli, lettuce, tomatoes, chicken, eggs, shrimp and cheese, have nutritional value, but they really don’t have any endorphin releasing capacity. Therefore you eat them till you’re full, and you’re done. Sugars, starches and carbohydrates, however, become addictive.

ReadCarb and sugar addiction is fuelling SA's obesity epidemic

What is carb addiction?

We have developed an out-of-control relationship with a drug called carbohydrates, according to Dr Cywes’ blog Carbohydrates: The New Drug Addiction.

In this blog, he adds that we eat sugars and starches not because of their nutritional value, but because of the buzz factor – and the high we get from it.

“Hence, our bodies don’t theologically rate that intake because we surpass it beyond hunger, due to the emotional satisfaction it gives us. And if we ignore the subtle hints that we’re gaining a couple of pounds (or kilos) here and there, and we continue to indulge in that relationship with the carbohydrates, we get fat.”

Watch: Dr Robert Cywes explain why we get fat, and the emotional addiction to carbohydrates

Dr. Cywes further continues in Why Do We Get Fat to compare American actress Lindsay Lohan’s relationship with alcohol, causing her to get DUIs (driving under the influence), with the relationship most people have with carbs causing our population to be obese.

“Overweight people’s problem is not the obesity; it’s their relationship with carbohydrates. And we have lost control, thus we haven’t got a weight problem, or a problem with food, or eating problems – we have a substance abuse problem; the substance being carbs.”

Read more:

Pro low-carb diets:

Tim Noakes on how it works and why this is a lifestyle more than a diet
Tim Noakes diet is put to the test

Video: why a low-carb diet is good for you

A scheduled high-fat diet may curb obesity
How a high-fat diet can help diabetics

Video: Tim Noakes talks about his book The Real Meal Revolution

Carb and sugar addiction is fuelling SA's obesity epidemic
Tim Noakes says refined carbs may be toxic
Tim Noakes: the heart disease theory 'has failed'
Tim Noakes: poor children should eat animal organs
Is the Tim Noakes Diet affecting your hair, skin and nails?
Why we get fat, by Gary Taubes
Could the LCHF/ Banting diet help prevent or control ADHD?
Carb and sugar addiction is fuelling SA's obesity epidemic
Sugar is the new nicotine

Anti low-carb diets:

Tim Noakes' critics shun the low carb high fat health summit
Pregnant moms on the high-fat diet may be putting their offspring's life at risk
Why a high-fat diet is bad for the body clock
A high-fat diet could up the risk of pancreatic cancer
High protein diets increase your chances of developing kidney disease
DietDoc asks: why are we always chasing quick-fix diets?
Warning issued regarding HFLC and high protein diets
Too much, too soon, Tim Noakes!
Banting/Noakes diet discriminates against women
Noakes slammed by UCT professors
Patrick Holford: banting is dangerous
Heart Foundation's open letter to Tim Noakes
Experts warn against Noakes diet
We debate Tim Noakes on which diet will save the world

Speakers at the Health Convention:

Zoe Harcombe on how to reverse the obesity epidemic
Dr Jason Fung on why type 2 diabetics should not be treated with insulin
Science writer Gary Taubes on the real reason we are all getting fat
Tim Noakes says his critics are likely to shun the health convention

- Health24


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