We used to think that the love of sweets is a common bad habit, which can be overcome by willpower. Sometimes this is true. But often people reach for cakes and chocolates because of the peculiarities of the body. Here’s how genetics, hormones, and other factors prevent us from giving up sweets.
The habit of putting more sugar in tea or coffee may be related to genetics. That’s the conclusion scientists from the U.S. and Australia came to. In 2015, they conducted a study that showed that because of genetic traits, some people have a weak sense of sweet taste. To compensate, they have to add more sugar or other sweeteners to their food.
There are other genetic factors as well. In 2016, scientists at the University of Iowa found that the hormone FGF21 can reduce sweet tooth intake. It is produced in the liver when simple carbohydrates are high and suppresses the urge to eat another candy bar, for example.
Then, in 2018, British scientists discovered that the hormone FGF21 is synthesized in different amounts in different people. It depends on the gene of the same name that “controls” the synthesis process. With a certain variation of the FGF21 gene, the liver cannot produce enough of the hormone, making it harder for people to control cravings for sweets. On the other hand, people with this gene variant are not prone to being overweight – they are the ones who eat everything and don’t get fat!
“Sweet tooth” is not only because of genetics. Scientists found that the older a person is, the worse their taste buds perceive sweet and bitter tastes. Therefore, older people often prefer sweeter foods and drinks.
There are also purely physiological reasons. Simple carbohydrates are an important source of energy. In order for us to remember to consume them, evolution has thoughtfully made us love sweet foods. When it enters the body, the brain’s reward system is activated and dopamine begins to be produced. As a result, eating while working, betting at 22Bet, or watching movies sweets is fixed as a positive event that would be good to repeat. We start looking for more sweet foods – and so on, time after time.
Then there’s stress. Avalanches at work, quarrels with loved ones, and just days when things go wrong – in all these situations, you are unlikely to want to eat steamed fish with a vegetable side dish. An ice cream or chocolate bar is another matter. Stress takes a lot of energy, and with the help of sweets the body tries to restore it.
The WHO recommends that the diet should be structured so that free sugars account for no more (and preferably less than) 10% of your daily caloric intake. Free sugars are those that have been added to foods by humans, plus those that are naturally occurring. Such recommendations are due to the fact that excessive sugar consumption is bad for health and can lead to:
- Mental health problems.
- Cardiovascular disease.
- Memory problems.
- Other diseases and disorders in the body.
The problem is that we don’t feel when we’ve gotten enough simple carbohydrates to sustain energy, and it’s hard to stop in time. To better control how much sugar you eat, try following the tips:
- Most foods contain sugar (in various variations) as it is, either naturally or thanks to the manufacturer. Even tomato paste, yogurt, and canned goods have it.
- There is a lot of sugar and sweeteners in these drinks. Try replacing them with water or tea. If regular water is hard to drink at first, add berries, fruit, or lemon and mint to it – but without the extra sugar.
- Think about what, besides food, can soothe you in a stressful situation. For example, you can go for short walks, call loved ones, do exercise or breathing exercises, take a bath. Make a list of such activities and refer to it when you want to eat stressful ice cream again.
- Forbidden fruit is sweet: the more you will limit yourself, the more often there will be disruption, and therefore – stress. There is nothing wrong with eating a cake or a chocolate bar (of course, if there are no health restrictions). The main thing is not to abuse.
- Many products in health food departments contain sugar and sweeteners. Don’t fall prey to marketing – read what is really included in the composition. And remember: glucose, fructose, syrups and caramel are actually sugar too, just with a different name.