Are We Genetically Programmed to Crave Sugar?

All the cells of the body, the brain in particular, require glucose (the simplest form of sugar) to function.  Our brain’s feedback loops, sensory pleasures, and environmental factors, such as alcohol and poor sleep, all amplify our desire for a sugar rush. But recent studies suggest that some of us—more so than others—may also be genetically attuned to crave sweets. There are genes linked to feelings of satiety, and when they are low, the brain does not get the signal that it is time to stop eating and we eat more.  For those with this innate “sweet tooth,” intuitive eating or stopping when full may not be effective and alternative strategies should be introduced to control overeating. 

Here are some facts and tips to help manage sugar intake:

Exercise is magic. Go for a walk after dessert and your blood sugar will drop.  Moderate exercise is the best tool for counteracting overindulgence. 

Avoid artificial sweeteners.  Why? Because fake sugar tastes sweet and our brains will stay programmed to desire the sweet stuff.  

Practice the 3-bite rule.  This is my favorite!  Have some dessert or candy but limit yourself to 3 bites.  One sweet treat per day is a good strategy. 

No sweets on an empty stomach. Sweets are best consumed after a meal of protein and complex carbohydrate.  Sugar will be absorbed more slowly into your bloodstream and your blood sugar is less likely to spike AND you will likely eat less.  This is the reason dessert is supposed to follow a meal.  For this same reason, avoid having sweets late at night.   

If none of this works and you find that you have overdone it, be kind to yourself, go for a walk, and resume healthy eating.  Remember, it’s how we treat our bodies over the long term that matters. 


Thank you to our Dietitian, Karen Kruza, for this article.

Thank you to our Dietitian, Karen Kruza, for this article.

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