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ADDICTION TO CARBOHYDRATES AND GLUTEN
OFTEN UNDERLIES EXCESS WEIGHT AND OBESITY


As many as 75% of overweight and obese people in the U.S. may be addicted through poor eating habits to either carbohydrates or the protein called gluten, which is found in all wheat, rye, barley and oat products.

Like any addiction, these cravings are unhealthy and problematic. They take the form of either an irresistible craving for carbohydrate-rich foods such as desserts, candies and junk food, or gluten products like breakfast cereals, breads and pasta.

Addiction
"Addiction and obesity both run in families, and...research also suggests that the environment – mainly, how often you're exposed to an addictive substance – can shift brain neurochemistry, increasing the likelihood of addiction."
Addicted to food? How to break your habit, Daryn Eller, Prevention.com
Carbohydrate-rich foods make up a large part of the modern-day diet and include bagels, cakes, chocolate, cookies, crackers, pastry, fruit and fruit juice, ice cream, potato chips, potatoes, pretzels, rice, pie, popcorn and sugar-sweetened beverages. In addition, carbohydrate "act-a-likes" such as sugar substitutes, alcoholic beverages and monosodium glutamate may trigger intense, recurring carbohydrate cravings, which can lead to excess weight and obesity.

Proteins such as gluten result in the production of substances that can have addictive, narcotic-like effects. These substances are called "exorphins." Hydrolyzed wheat gluten, for example, has been found to prolong intestinal transit time and may contribute to weight gain. The effects of exorphins on the brain tell a person to keep eating gluten products, which, in turn, could contribute to the mental disturbances and appetite disorders that routinely accompany food-related illnesses.

Many food "addicts" are right to suspect there is a physical reason that makes them crave carbohydrates and put weight on easily. But the underlying cause of their struggles often goes undiagnosed and untreated by the medical profession.

Carbohydrate Addiction

Carbohydrate addiction is, in fact, caused by excess insulin, which is released by the pancreas into the blood stream when carb-rich foods are eaten. Insulin signals the body to take in food and, once the food is consumed, orders the resulting energy to be stored in the form of fat. Too much insulin results in an irresistible and frequent desire to eat.

The scientific term for this condition is post-prandial reactive hyperinsulinemia, which means too much insulin is released after eating. Hyperinsulinemia stems from Insulin Resistance, an imbalance of blood glucose and insulin levels. If left unchecked, Insulin Resistance can result in excess weight and obesity, increasing the risk of developing a variety of damaging disorders such as:
  • The cluster of cardiovascular risk factors called metabolic syndrome (syndrome X), which can lead to a heart attack or stroke
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a leading cause of female infertility as well as numerous other symptoms including skin conditions, excess body and facial hair and male pattern baldness in women
  • Reversible pre-diabetes, which, if left untreated, can lead to type 2 diabetes, which is irreversible in the vast majority of cases. Type 2 diabetes may require daily injections of insulin and significantly increases the risk for blindness, heart and kidney disease and the need for amputation
Gluten Intolerance

Mixture of Bread on Table.Gluten intolerance can manifest in many ways. You may have heard of Celiac Disease, an extreme reaction to any product containing gluten, a protein found in wheat. The symptoms are chronic watery and bloody stools. The immune systems of those with Celiac Disease are reacting severely to this protein, however there are thousands of people who suffer milder reactions to gluten and are unaware of the underlying cause.

Eating gluten can cause inflammation in the sensitive mucous membranes of the intestinal lining which can trigger an immune response. Because of this immune reaction, individuals experience wide variations in symptoms such as rashes, fatigue, mental fog, behavioral disorders like hyperactivity in children, gastrointestinal symptoms such as constipation or diarrhea, chronic headaches and more.

Many individuals have increased food cravings as a reaction to consuming gluten, but are unaware of the reason for their desire to eat continuously or even out of control. Some medical practitioners are challenged to pinpoint this condition and, as a result, their patients are often left to treat the symptoms rather than the cause - ingesting glutens. Due to the lack of specificity in identifying their disorder, many people continue to eat gluten for decades and struggle constantly with their food cravings.

Insulin Resistance

Insulin increases the insulin sensitivity of your cells, which, in turn, impedes the vital process whereby food converted into glucose in the bloodstream passes through the cell wall to be converted to energy. Glucose "bounces" off the cell walls after being denied entry and "free floats" to the liver, where the sugar is stored in fat cells throughout the body via the blood stream.

Excess Weight CarbsCommon symptoms of resulting energy starvation include irritability, shakiness, tiredness, intense cravings, confusion and headaches. As high insulin levels continue, glucose gets trapped in the blood stream and can bring on pre- and type 2 diabetes.

Pre-diabetics, who have blood sugar levels higher than normal but not yet in the range of type 2 diabetes, can reverse their condition with a balanced, nutritious diet and regular exercise. Type 2 diabetes can develop if you neglect the symptoms of pre-diabetes.

There is currently no accepted blood test to determine definitively whether you are carb-addicted. Fasting insulin levels do not necessarily predict how your body will react after eating carbohydrate-rich foods and glucose tolerance tests use highly sweetened drinks that are not the equivalent of typical carbohydrate-rich meals.

But if you are overweight or obese, there is a good chance you are carbohydrate or gluten-addicted. However, it's not necessarily true that you over-eat, just that you are trapped in the bad habit of eating the wrong diet i.e. carb or gluten- rich food, while leading a sedentary lifestyle.

Changing those habits is a key factor in the Insulite System's approach to improved health through weight loss via a balanced nutritious diet, regular exercise and ongoing support.

A crucial aim is to address the impact that food makes on neuro-transmitters in the brain. By changing your lifestyle and "re-training" the way your brain perceives food, you can reverse Insulin Resistance and achieve lasting weight loss and a greater sense of well-being in ways that may not have occurred to you.

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Foreign Policy,
Nov 1, 2005
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Rebecca Puhl and Kelly D. Brownell, Bias, Discrimination, and Obesity, Obesity Research 9:788-805 (2001)
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Obesity may be an independent risk factor for heart problems, MSNBC
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Diabetes Prevention Program study 2001, study funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, et al.
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Article by Dr. Sheri Colberg, Phd, FACSM


"The United States is experiencing an epidemic of obesity. Thirty-four percent of adults are overweight and an additional 30% are obese. Thus, 2 of every 3 Americans have an unhealthy body weight. Obesity contributes to over 300,000 deaths per year, principally through its association with cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and several cancers. Obesity currently is the second leading cause of preventable death and will soon surpass cigarette smoking, the leading cause. Health economists estimate that obesity costs our nation approximately $100 billion a year. And these figures say nothing about the personal suffering of those affected by obesity."
Testimony of the North American Association for the Study of Obesity (NAASO) before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform, Subcommittee on Human Rights and Wellness, 9.15.2004 (.PDF)

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