If your sweet tooth is sabotaging your diet and weight goals, your genes could be to blame (partly). Finally, a (partial) explanation for why it is so easy for others to say no to that cheesecake while for others it's nearly impossible! It turns out it may be more than just a lack of willpower.
One animal study showed that a hormone secreted by the liver (FGF21) suppresses the intake of sweets. Another animal study on the same hormone found that the hormone can reduce appetite for sweets. It was only a matter of time before researchers decided to study this hormone's effect on humans, especially their cravings for sugar.
According to a recent study on human FGF21, people with certain FGF21 variants were 20% more likely to enjoy and crave sweets. While this research is observational, it does suggest that the liver may play a larger role in influencing eating behavior than we currently think.
You may be surprised to know this isn't the first study to dig into the science of the sweet tooth. In 2007, the American Society for Clinical Nutrition published a study that also found preferences for sweets to be partly inherited. According to the study, the gene responsible for influencing a person's cravings was chromosome 16p11.2.
Well, regardless of whether your sugar cravings have to do with your hormones, environment, or learned habits, read on for some sneaky ways to outsmart that sweet tooth.
Outsmarting the Sweet Tooth
The American Heart Association suggests consuming no more than 100 calories per day of added sugar (about 6 teaspoons) for women and no more than 150 calories per day (about 9 teaspoons) for men.
Added sugars have no nutritional benefit.
Does the product have sugar as the first or second ingredient?
You're better off avoiding it.
But what do you do when the sweet tooth starts calling your name?
-Try a dessert-flavored tea (one without artificial flavors). Will they taste like your favorite pie or cake? No. Will they work as a reliable distraction? They can. There are some great chocolate, peppermint, cinnamon, and mixed flavored teas that are naturally sweet and can help curb a sugar craving.
- Stock up on healthy, balanced snacks that can help keep any cravings at bay between meals. Sometimes hunger is confused for a sugar craving. Your body may just need a balanced snack to bridge the gap to your next meal. Try a slice of toast with a few slices of avocado or hummus with whole grain crackers.
- Your favorite berries can save the day! They're sweet and they're easy to carry around and work with. Just rinse them and eat. No peeling or chopping neccessary! Throw them in a yogurt parfait and those sugar cravings may become a mere memory!
- While veggies may be the last thing on your mind when experiencing a sugar craving, sweet-tasting vegetables like squash, carrots, or sweet potatoes have a natural sweetness that just might calm down your sugar cravings. Plus, you get so many more nutrients and fiber than regular sweets with added sugars.
Søberg, Susanna et al. Cell Metabolism , Volume 25 , Issue 5 , 1045 - 1053.e6
Am J Clin Nutr July 2007 vol. 86. no. 1 55-63