Last updated on May 20th, 2017
A study in The FASEB Journal (which, as you probably know, well-read person that you are, is the Official Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology) finds that consuming a low-carb, high-fat diet is “associated with reductions in cravings for all food categories.”
The researchers define a craving as “an intense desire to consume a particular food that is difficult to resist.”
The finding runs counter to the notion that we always want what we can’t have. Subjects in the study reported their cravings for sweet and starchy foods were reduced on a restricted carbohydrate diet that denied them such foods. They also reported reduced cravings overall. The results were the same for men and women.
It was a small, short-term study, and more suggestive than definitive.
The participants followed a diet that provided 54-58% of energy from fat, 28-30% from protein, and 14-15% from carbs. The diet also provided 26-34 grams of fiber per day. Total calories were lower than expected energy needs, but nevertheless, “95% of subjects reported being somewhat satisfied to very satisfied with the meals, 60% felt less hunger after meals, and 75% reported reduced ‘eating when bored.’”
After four weeks, the participants had lost significant weight as well some waist circumference.
None of this surprises me much. In a post I wrote almost six years ago, I defined a low-carb diet as “one in which you restrict your carbohydrate intake to lose weight (or maintain your desired weight) without hunger” (italics added).
When I wrote “without hunger,” I had food cravings in mind, though of a more generalized type. “Crazy hunger” was the expression I used.
I didn’t think then, and don’t think now, that any special effort needs to be made to restrict calories on a low-carb diet. However, I argued then that calorie reduction invariably happens. You aren’t as hungry, so you don’t eat as much or as often. That view is probably naive. At any rate, I don’t buy the energy imbalance theory of weight gain or loss. There has to be more to it, and insulin is the key.
Another thing that doesn’t surprise me is that the study received support from Atkins Nutritionals Inc.
But I am a little surprised that the story was picked up by the DiabetesPro SmartBrief newsletter of the American Diabetes Association. (And thanks to Anita for forwarding the newsletter to me!) I didn’t think the ADA cared much for the LCHF approach.
Then, again, the study wasn’t about controlling diabetes. At least not directly. So that might make it OK.
And views do change.
Thanks for your great emails and blog. I’ve been LCHF for four years and I’m never hungry between meals. I think that’s due to the high fat. I still have cravings for sweets which I suspect are due to triggers and habits.
Yes, the fat is the key. Fat can be very satisfying. As for sweet cravings, I’m sure some of that is due to triggers and habits, but it turns out that sugar is incredibly addictive. It pushes our buttons like crazy. So sweets are hard to get over, and we probably all have our personal favorite sweet-treats that we should never be left alone with.