Does Fructose Cause Sugar Cravings?

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Did you know that consuming fructose (sugar found in fruit and honey) could make you crave high-calorie foods.

That's the conclusion of new research out of the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California.

It found that eating fructose fires up the reward regions in the brain, tempting us to pick calorie-laden snacks and sweets.

What did the fructose study involve?

The research involved 24 healthy people who were given a glass of a cherry drink which had either fructose or glucose. Their blood was analysed to test levels of insulin, fructose and glucose, leptin and ghrelin (enzymes that regulate our appetite).

Before knocking back the sugary drink, the volunteers ranked their craving on a scale. After drinking the cherry liquid, their brains were scanned while being exposed to pictures of high-caloric food as well as pictures of everyday objects.

Throughout the process, the participants rated their hunger levels and cravings. When presented with pictures of calorie-dense foods, they were given the choice to eat it now or choose for a future cash reward.

Interestingly, the people who had consumed the fructose drink were more inclined to choose the food over the money.

Why does fructose cause high-calorie cravings?

So why does fructose compared to glucose , egg us on to scoff sugary treats. It could have something to do with insulin. The research team discovered that the plasma insulin response was significantly lower in the fructose drinking group.

Dr Kathleen Page, who worked on the study, explains:

The pancreas secretes insulin, and insulin drives glucose into cells so that it can be used for energy. But it also sends a signal to the brain that says you've eaten. Fructose doesn't stimulate insulin secretion, and if there's no insulin, you don't get the information that you're full.

Should I stop eating fruit?

Page points out that the results don't suggest we should remove fruit from our diet. She says the fibre in fruit fills us up. The message instead is to steer clear of sugary drinks such as fruit juices, and limit the amount of sugar we eat overall.

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