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Sweet Tooth: Fact or Fiction

Aug 15, 2008
While for a long time I did not understand the scientific foundation for why my sweet-tooth seemed to always win out I knew very well that was a battle that I would eventually always loose. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but my willpower could only hold out so long and then I would succumb to the temptations of sweets. In order to fully understand this we need to take a little trip through history.

Now the history I am talking about is more like ancient history, more specifically pre-historic history, because that is were this whole problem started. In all fairness for millions of years it wasn't a problem because much like any animal in the wild we never knew when our next meal would be. If you have any doubt about that statement, just take an hour or so and watch one of those animal shows on your television. Often they talk about the fact that a pride of lions for example may not make a kill for a couple of weeks. The problem here is, if they don't kill something many times they don't eat. Imagine going for a week or two weeks before you had a chance to sit down for a good size meal.

What do you think you would do once you were able to sit down to that meal? More than likely it would be a long while before you would get up from the table. That is the way you are wired at the genetic level. Deep down in your DNA you are wired to eat as much as you can, when you can, simply because for millions of years you had no way of knowing for sure when you were going to get your next meal. That same genetic code is what drives you today, because your DNA does not know that you have a surplus of food waiting at every corner today.

Worse than that, our genetic wiring has us programmed to eat foods that are sweet and/or high in fat. Why - you ask? When you don't know where your next meal is coming from it is very important that you take in the maximum amount of calories possible to sustain your bodily functions until such time that you get another meal. Not only are the calories important, but the type of calories. While the news media and all the hype about foods high in fat give fatty foods a bad name, the truth of the matter is that your body needs fats to function. These essential fats are very important for your brain functions, your nerves, and the list goes on. Again if you are going between long periods of time between meals, you are programmed to desire the tastes of foods high in fat. If you are starting to feel like the odds are stacked against you, you are correct, but the good news is that as you understand more about what is going on in your body you can eat foods that are good for you, but will turn off the alarms that drive you to eat the foods that are not so good for you.

I am sure that you all know that there are parts of the brain that process feelings of pleasure and thus when something triggers that portion of the brain we tend to remember that and what to repeat that feeling of pleasure. Most notably, sexual experiences set off these triggers in the brain and as such there is no problem with keeping the human species alive and well. Needless to say, food also plays an integral part in the pleasure centers of our brain, in conjunction with the parts of the brain that tells us when we are full. Without getting in to all of the details of the biochemical signals that play a role in that series of communications that tell us we are full, that brownie was really good, or hey you really want more of that ice cream, I will tell you that there are a series of chemicals (Ghrelin, Leptin, Cholecystokinin, PYY) that control all of these essential communications. While I've covered this in-depth in another article I will mention that it is well documented that some of these chemicals measure lower than they should in over weight people leading researchers to believe that this flaw in their chemical makeup is leading to their weight problems.

By now you are starting to understand why your willpower to stay away from that second helping, to avoid the fatty foods or to simply pass on dessert is under constant attack. Would you be surprised to know that the fast food industry, the manufactures of processed foods, and the food industry as a whole have known this information for a long time? As a matter of fact that understand everything that I have just mentioned and exactly how all these chemicals interact to bring the most pleasure to that all important section of our brain. As a matter of fact the food industry and those responsible for marketing these products study this at length, many times in the form of study groups or taste tests. Armed with this information they make sure that they can maximize the response all the way from your taste buds in your mouth right to the point of when you body is going to tell you that you have had enough and worse yet, all the way to the point when your body is going to start a craving for more of what you just finished.

With what seems to be all of the odds stacked against us there are still many things under our control. Additionally, you can take heart in the fact that you are not in this battle along. By many estimates close to 70% of the US population is overweight to some degree and yet with all of the information that is known about appetite, diet and our biological make-up we seem to have no solution to the problem. You may or may not be aware of the fact that when it comes to track records the group of drugs with the worse record of all are weight-loss drugs. The reason being is that people will loose weight for a given period of time and then our genetic programming kicks in and we are right back to where we started before. Unfortunately, we have become a society of instant gratification which is not a good way to approach any kind of weight-loss program. In short we don't gain weight over night and as such we should not expect to be able to get the weight off over night. Combine all of the weight-loss drugs on the market and the 50 million or so diets programs that are available to you on the market today and in short you have a fantastic recipe for total confusion.

While there is nothing sexy or mysterious about the real answer there is one available to all of us. That answer is to eat a highly varied natural foods diet. That means eating lots of unprocessed foods like whole grains, vegetables, fruits, fish and when possible eating fruits and vegetables in their raw uncooked state. Additionally, eating much smaller more frequent meals is one of the best things that I have ever done. If you think about it that makes a lot more sense in that you body has to deal with smaller quantities of food and as such you body is much better equipped to take full advantage of the calories and nutrients that you have taken in. Not to mention as a bonus you just feel like you get to eat more, but in reality you will have eaten less total calories. For me personally the best way of eating is more of a Mediterranean type of diet. When traveling through the Mediterranean regions all of the meals typically focused on lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains/whole grain breads, lots of seafood combined with some red meats and for the most part most of the foods that I ate where all organic foods. As you now know we are preprogrammed genetically to really like the fatty and sweet foods, but by sticking with a highly varied natural foods diet our genetics will not rule our waistlines.

References:

1) Wikipedia: Appetite

2) Time Magazine: Science of Appetite -

3) FAQs.org (Appetite)

4) Stephen Cherniske, M.S., The Metabolic Plan, The Random House Publishing Company, 2003, ISBN: 0-345-44102-8

5) Wikipedia: Blood Sugar

6) Wikipedia: Glucose

7) Paul Zane Pilzer, The New Wellness Revolution, pg 62 - 76, John Wiley & Sons, 2007 ISBN: 9780470106181

8) Wikipedia: Cholecystokinin (CCK)

9) Wikipedia: Ghrelin
About the Author
Glenn has combined his passion for health and fitness with a great business model that allows him opportunities that would have otherwise not been possible. For more information visit http://www.opportunityofyourlife.com/
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