New review confirms food cravings can be reduced

Holidays don’t have to sabotage your diet

New review confirms food cravings can be reduced
When the meal is over, stay out of the kitchen to prevent snacking.

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Food craving, the intense desire to eat certain foods, can sabotage efforts to maintain healthy eating habits and body weight, no matter the time of year.

However, an examination of 28 current peer-reviewed scientific studies largely substantiates findings that changes in diet, prescription medications, physical activity and bariatric surgery reduce craving, said Candice Myers, PhD, assistant professor – research at LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

“Craving influences what people eat and their body weight, but there are some components of our behavior and diet that we do have control over,” Myers said. “Being mindful of these desires gives us more control of them.”

Myers was the lead author of “Food Cravings and Body Weight: a Conditioning Response.”

For example, one proven way to reduce the longing for a certain food is to eat it less frequently. In other words, it’s better to remove something from your diet than to try to eat smaller helpings of it.

“The upside of craving is that it is a conditioned response that you can unlearn,” said John Apolzan, PhD, director of Pennington Biomedical’s Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism Laboratory. “It’s not easy, but it can be done.”

Myers, Apolzan and Corby Martin, PhD, director of the Ingestive Behavior Laboratory, co-authored the retrospective review published in the journal Endocrinology, Diabetes and Obesity.

Other takeaways from their review included that:

  • Losing weight reduces food craving.
  • Beware exercise can increase cravings
  • Cravings account for as much as 11 percent of eating behavior and weight gain, more  than genetics currently explains.
  • Many obesity drugs — phentermine, lorcaserin, and semaglitude among others —  reduce craving.
  • Different demographic and socioeconomic groups may have different responses to food  cravings. But little is known about these potential differences, and  more investigation is needed.

“Food craving is an important piece of the weight-loss puzzle. It doesn’t explain weight gain 100 percent,” Myers said. “A number of other factors, including genetics and eating behavior, are also involved.”

The study was supported in part by U54 GM104940 from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health, which funds the Louisiana Clinical and Translational Science Center, and Nutrition Obesity Research Center Grant # P30DK072476 titled ‘Nutrition and Metabolic Health through the Lifespan’ sponsored by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

Information on this page was provided by LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

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