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Weight Management Achieved by Controlling and Not Suppressing Food Cravings

wer calories per unit of volume, explains Cheryl Gilhooly, PhD, MPH, research dietitian and first author of the study.

The study, which was part of the one-year CALERIE trial, involved 32 overweight but otherwise healthy women, 20 to 42 years of age, who were randomly assigned to two diets that differed in glycemic load, a measurement of how quickly the carbohydrates in a persons diet are converted to blood sugar.

These findings suggest, says Roberts, that cravings are for calories, not carbohydrate, as is widely assumed. What is commonly called carbohydrate addiction should probably be relabelled as calorie addiction, she added.

Some of the most commonly craved foods among study participants were foods that have high sugar plus fat, such as chocolate, and salty snacks, such as chips and French fries.

The craved foods do have carbohydrate, but they also have fat, and some protein, too. The most identifiable thing about the foods people crave is that they are highly dense in calories, Roberts said.

This is the first study of long-term changes in food cravings in a calorie-restriction program. If individuals understand that they can expect cravings and that those cravings will be for calorie-dense foods, it might help in their weight management. One thing to do is to substitute foods that taste similar but have fewer calories, since the craving can be satisfied by related tastes, Roberts said.

Roberts and colleagues conclude that cravings for energy-dense foods are common. Although they caution that additional long-term studies are needed to confirm their findings.

Controlling the frequency of giving in to cravings, rather than suppressing them may be an important area of emphasis in future weight control programs.

Primary results from the CALERIE study were reported in an earlier issue of Friedman Nutrition Notes.


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