20

votes

Dietary fats reduce carb-cravings via oxytocin+ secretion. Sugar exacerbates them via oxytocin inhibition. Been addressed before?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created August 06, 2011 at 1:09 AM

I've noticed a few anecdotes here regarding carb-cravings on a relatively lower-fat paleo diet. Looking around the academic lit, there seems to be at least one viable and rat-confirmed explanation for this (which would also help explain appetite disregulation on the SAD, and the success of Taubes-paleo LC for appetite regulation). Potentially, this could also mean prolonged lack of sexual activity exacerbates carb-cravings.

I'm wondering (1) whether the diet-> oxytocin -> satiety connection has been addressed before by any paleo-types and (2) whether this sounds like a viable explanation or not.

I'm an economics student who was pre-med in undergrad, not a neurophysiologist..

Simplified story: So oxytocin (OT) is the famous love hormone. Has all kinds of nice effects, among them a marked decrease in appetite, i.e. increase in satiety and specifically a significant increase in carb-specific satiety. Oleoylethanolamine (OEA) is a nuclear receptor agonist lipid that, among other things, systemically stimulates oxytocin in the brain-stem and hypothalamus. OEA is itself regulated by diet and dietary fat intake specifically stimulates OEA's production (which occurs in the gut) as well as other related satiety-stimulating agents. Finally, oxytocin synthesis is inhibited by dietary sugar intake.

So dietary fats reduce carb-cravings via oxytocin+ stimulation. Sugar exacerbates them via oxytocin inhibition. To eliminate carb-cravings, eliminate sugar (maybe go VLC, substitue with stevia or something?) and up the dietary fat intake. Make sense?

Not sure how dietary protein might factor into this.

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19463)

on January 04, 2012
at 06:34 PM

In the past, I've stopped sugar cravings with nothing more than bacon. Had to control my automatic response in trying to reach for something sweet and get some bacon from the fridge and cook it instead. So it worked for this n=1.

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19463)

on January 04, 2012
at 06:33 PM

+1000 (I wish). Very interesting! This would explain a lot of things! I'm going balls deep into the papers you listed. At least the ones that are freely downloadable.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on December 23, 2011
at 06:28 PM

Update: To my delight, I now have a specific remedy for my cravings--not saying it would work for anyone else. If I crave sugar, I drink a fizzy bottle of water kefir (relatively low in sugar) and the cravings disappear rather than getting worse as they would if I ate carbs.

C074eec3b3c0325ef3018a128111823a

(1012)

on November 23, 2011
at 08:27 AM

This is a really interesting question - and asked well with links to studies. I think it needs some more attention, which will hopefully lead to an answer.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on November 06, 2011
at 01:45 AM

I am a card-carrying binge eater, so you shouldn't be surprised that there is no quantity of fat or any other macronutrient that turns off my cravings. The only thing that ever stopped me when I was out of control was the physical inability to swallow another bite. I'm happy to report, though, that I'm in pretty good control right now--which means that I think of food constantly but take no action.

5ef574d7893bc816ec52e04139e9bc09

(6097)

on October 26, 2011
at 10:01 PM

Is sugar not a refined carb?

Medium avatar

(19479)

on October 18, 2011
at 09:19 PM

I've never experienced this personally. If I eat carbs (typically refined flour or sugar vs. starchy tubers and the like) I crave more carbs, fat doesn't even seem appealing. On the other hand, if I eat a lot of pure fat (coconut butter/oil, marrow, etc.) I hit a wall and even the idea of eating more seems really unappealing. Nut butters (especially combined with cocoa powder) are slightly more prone to overconsumption, but only by a small margin.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on September 20, 2011
at 08:55 PM

It would be a fun experiment to audit a group of volunteers' grocery receipts comparing "dry spells" vs. more amorously active times.

3b7e6c77a5412587152c9e3f22b41c2a

(434)

on September 07, 2011
at 04:44 AM

So, your actual "question" (scare quotes) was "been addressed before?". Not to my knowledge. Interesting! Thanks.

Ce41c230e8c2a4295db31aec3ef4b2ab

(32564)

on August 08, 2011
at 09:16 PM

Cool! You may have explained why chocolate is a great substitute for sex (when sex isn't available, haha!)

0c939bdddc3d8f8ef923ba8a72aeda71

on August 06, 2011
at 09:37 PM

Right, that would fit into an oxytocin story of bodyfat retention through decreased carb satiety. Might also be associated with PDD, maybe the bodyfat-depression cycle thing in general.

2f931662684a7747be36255c8b486228

(1049)

on August 06, 2011
at 07:42 AM

Great question. I never connected oxytocin with cravings, but women who breast feed (producing copious amounts of oxytocin which aids mother child bonding) tend to loose weight quickly after pregnancy as opposed to those who do not breast feed.

0c939bdddc3d8f8ef923ba8a72aeda71

on August 06, 2011
at 02:10 AM

Yep, I'd expect insulin is involved too (and I think insulin's importance--post-meal *and* chronic--is unduly discounted by those who push a leptin-dominant bodyfat story... or ghrelin or inflammation or "reward" or whatever. I'm still a Taubesian prettymuch). There can certainly be multiple mechanisms that contribute to obesity or cravings or what have you, but oxytocin(+OEA etc.) is directly linked to carb-specific satiety so it seems it might be an important factor for carb-cravings issues. And I haven't seen it addressed specifically.

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on August 06, 2011
at 01:34 AM

Interesting theory; nice linkage. As one of the purveyors of an increased fat = reduced carb cravings anecdote, it makes sense, at least on first runthrough. I always assumed insulin was the main player in those cravings, but that's because it's the chemical I've got the most familiarity with, thanks to Mr. Taubes.

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3 Answers

1
D1728f99db66ff91d695a6df5cd38b02

(1368)

on September 06, 2011
at 07:29 PM

What about eating a tonne of fat and then craving sugar... (i have stopped craving refined carbs though...)?

Medium avatar

(19479)

on October 18, 2011
at 09:19 PM

I've never experienced this personally. If I eat carbs (typically refined flour or sugar vs. starchy tubers and the like) I crave more carbs, fat doesn't even seem appealing. On the other hand, if I eat a lot of pure fat (coconut butter/oil, marrow, etc.) I hit a wall and even the idea of eating more seems really unappealing. Nut butters (especially combined with cocoa powder) are slightly more prone to overconsumption, but only by a small margin.

5ef574d7893bc816ec52e04139e9bc09

(6097)

on October 26, 2011
at 10:01 PM

Is sugar not a refined carb?

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on November 06, 2011
at 01:45 AM

I am a card-carrying binge eater, so you shouldn't be surprised that there is no quantity of fat or any other macronutrient that turns off my cravings. The only thing that ever stopped me when I was out of control was the physical inability to swallow another bite. I'm happy to report, though, that I'm in pretty good control right now--which means that I think of food constantly but take no action.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on December 23, 2011
at 06:28 PM

Update: To my delight, I now have a specific remedy for my cravings--not saying it would work for anyone else. If I crave sugar, I drink a fizzy bottle of water kefir (relatively low in sugar) and the cravings disappear rather than getting worse as they would if I ate carbs.

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19463)

on January 04, 2012
at 06:34 PM

In the past, I've stopped sugar cravings with nothing more than bacon. Had to control my automatic response in trying to reach for something sweet and get some bacon from the fridge and cook it instead. So it worked for this n=1.

0
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on January 04, 2012
at 05:48 PM

I think carb cravings are part of the broken insulin release mechanism, weak liver issues and blind brain inflammation. Eat high carbs->insulin release and then some->drives circulating blood sugar into fat cells to below brain glucose happy levels->liver weak and can't do glucogenesis fast enough->brain signals craving for glucose. The brain could signal for fat storage release for fuel but it can't see the refrigerator on my back b/c of the elevated insulin. The oxytocin angle sounds right but I think it is a small player, short acting. Insulin is big player in my broken metabolism. I spread out 60-100 grams of carb over 3 meals and don't over eat protein to keep my insulin response low and steady. No cravings and weight stable.

0
Aa0cd0c176b6e63b02ff8240f7c2c9dd

on November 11, 2011
at 04:31 PM

Not familiar with Oxytocin but it sounds viable to me. From what I understand, carbs can also stimulate appetite by causing leptin resistance. I've noticed that personally when I eat a meal that is a very high percentage of protein by calorie I tend to crave other non protein foods, mostly carbs. Haven't searched for a mechanism to explain that. Probably partly due to proteins effect on insulin sensitivity but I feel that there might also be another mechanism in place to keep us away from rabbit starvation.

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