Hooked on Carbohydrates

by Kelly Dorfman, M.S., Cofounder, DDR

"Sam will eat as many cookies as I give him but won‘t touch regular meals." "Erin is such a terrible eater. All she likes are French fries and bagels. If I suggest anything else, she has a fit!" Sound familiar? Are white foods the diet wreckers at your house?

Sugar and white starches like bagels and potatoes, the mainstay of many kids‘ diets, are high in simple carbohydrates. These foods cannot sustain energy evenly because the body metabolizes them too quickly. Complex carbohydrates, found in whole grains, beans and vegetables often missing from kids‘ diets, are more sustaining because they release energy over a longer period of time.

A recent study has demonstrated what frazzled parents have suspected for years; simple carbohydrates are addicting. Dr. Bartley Hoebel, a professor at Princeton, discovered that when rodents tasted sugar, their brains released opioids just like addictive drugs. Rats showed signs of sugar dependence in just ten days.

Simple carbohydrate addiction blunts desire for more nutritious food. When children rely on this fast energy, blood sugar levels spike and drop, resulting in moodiness and unfocused behavior. In this state all they want is more sugar. Reasoning with addicts is fruitless, unless they are taken off the blood sugar roller coaster.

Soothing the Sugar Blues:

If we recognize over consumption of sugar as a possible addiction, we can embrace a solution geared to the seriousness of the problem. Often a child’s carbohydrate compulsion fails to improve because a parent has the same issue. Addressing eating habits as a family, with all members working together, can benefit everyone.

[Initially published in New Developments: Volume 8, Number 2 - Winter, 2002-2003

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