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Say Goodbye To Sugar Cravings With Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting prevents sugar cravings over time due to the hunger-suppressing hormone leptin
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Summary

Sugar cravings can be difficult to overcome but intermittent fasting can help. When one begins fasting for the day, the hunger-suppressing hormone leptin levels initially increase, appetite decreases and sweet tooth desires lessen.

When one stays in a fasted state for a long period, leptin levels start to drop. This may cause feelings of increased hunger and desires for sugar the first couple of weeks. As leptin levels normalize, hunger and sugar cravings subside and in time the sugar craving cycle can be broken.

Written by
Jill Lebofsky
15+yr Women's Wellness Expert, Holistic Menopause Support, Intermittent Fasting, Midlife, Essential Oil, Author, Speaker

Say Goodbye To Sugar Cravings With Intermittent Fasting

 

Chocolate, cookies, ice cream – a sweet tooth’s lover's dream! Indulging in an occasional treat is good for your emotional well-being. But when you consume sugar regularly, your body is never satisfied.

Of the more than 600,000 food products found on the typical grocery’s shelf, 80 percent contain added sugar. The average person consumes one pound of sugar a day (1).

 

Eating a lot of carbohydrates and sugar-laden foods fuels the body temporarily and rewards the brain, but it is never satisfied. Giving into sugar cravings reinforces the sugar-eating habit making it more challenging to break.

Sugar cravings can be mentally distracting and physically uncomfortable. Adopting an intermittent fasting routine and choosing whole, healthy foods can make the sugar cravings go away.

 

Dangers of too much sugar

Sweets in a bowl.

Sugar may be sweet, but it's not your friend. Minor and major issues can occur when you consume too much sugar, such as:

  

The cycle of sugar cravings

Once you start consuming sugar regularly, your body starts signaling it wants it all the time. It becomes a vicious cycle that looks like this:

  1. Consume high sugar food.
  2. Blood sugar levels (glucose) rise and this spike of energy temporarily fuels the body.
  3. Insulin levels jump as insulin is released by the pancreas to bring blood sugar levels back to normal.
  4. Blood sugar and insulin levels get lower, and whatever energy from unused glucose is stored as fat in the body.
  5. Signs of hunger set in.
  6. The body craves high-sugar food.
  7. The cycle begins again.

 

How can intermittent fasting prevent sugar cravings?

Pink and purple donuts.

Intermittent fasting includes set windows for refraining from eating and specific hours when you eat. No matter what method of intermittent fasting you follow, with consistent effort it can help you control sugar cravings. A reduction in sugar cravings often makes weight loss efforts easier and boosts success.

Leptin and intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting has an effect on the hunger-suppressing hormone leptin, which in turn will affect your cravings for sugar. Toward the end of a meal, the body releases leptin, which causes hunger signals to subside. 

Leptin is released from fat cells (13). It creates a feeling of fullness and suppresses appetite for a period. It tells the brain you are full and to start burning calories for energy. When leptin levels increase, metabolism speeds up in normal-weight individuals.

Heavier people have higher leptin levels than leaner ones (14). Obese people become desensitized for leptin, which is called leptin resistance. They usually find themselves in some stage of the sugar craving cycle throughout the day. Their bodies need to release more significant amounts of leptin to achieve that sense of hunger satisfaction. High leptin levels are associated with obesity, overeating, and inflammation-related diseases, including pre-diabetes and heart disease (15).

Women may find it difficult to overcome leptin resistance because they naturally have higher leptin levels than men (16). Higher leptin levels may explain why women have more cravings for sugar and carbs. If you are desensitized to leptin, you will constantly feel hungry, have cravings, and your body doesn’t get the calorie-burning boost.

Leptin is also known to suppress the perception of a sweet taste (17). When one is in a fasted state, leptin levels initially increase, appetite decreases, sweet tooth desires lessen, and in time the sugar craving cycle can be broken.

When starting out, due to lowered leptin levels when fasting you may have a hard time dealing with sugar cravings during intermittent fasting (18). Short-term studies using the alternate day fasting method and prolonged fasting (fasts lasting typically 36-72 hours) both showed significant drops in leptin levels, leading to increased hunger (19, 20). However, this may be compounded by an unhealthy diet and lack of sleep.  

Nonetheless, adopting a long-term intermittent fasting lifestyle has been shown to increase leptin levels (21). After a couple of weeks, many intermittent fasters report not feeling hungry very often and their sugar cravings go away.


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Other ways to reduce sugar cravings when intermittent fasting

Colorful Candies.

Here are a few tips to help you with sugar cravings until your body can normalize leptin levels and the desires go away.

  • Drink sugar-free liquids allowed during the fast
  • Use peppermint essential oil that is safe for ingestion in your water during the fast (22).
  • Chew sugar-free gum during your eating window
  • Make sure to eat enough unprocessed foods during your eating window that include healthy carbohydrates such as fruits and quinoa.
  • Stay busy and out of the kitchen. Keep your hands occupied, and your mind distracted.
  • Dig deep and remember all the healthy reasons you want to reduce your sugar consumption

  

The takeaway

It may seem impossible, but you CAN overcome sugar cravings, and intermittent fasting can be a tremendous support. When beginning intermittent fasting you may initially find your hunger levels and sugar cravings increase. If you stick with it for a few weeks your desire for food around the clock and your sweet tooth, thanks to the appetite-suppressing hormone leptin, will be gone!

Sugar cravings can be physically overcome with intermittent fasting, but sometimes the mental sugar habit is hard to beat. Join our online community of intermittent fasting women for extra support.


References:

1. Hyman M. The Blood Sugar Solution 10 Day Detox Diet. Little, Brown Spark. 2014

2. Malik VS, Pan A, Willett WC, Hu FB. Sugar-sweetened beverages and weight gain in children and adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013;98(4):1084-1102. doi:10.3945/ajcn.113.058362

3. DiNicolantonio JJ, Lucan SC, O'Keefe JH. The Evidence for Saturated Fat and for Sugar Related to Coronary Heart Disease. Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2016;58(5):464-472. doi:10.1016/j.pcad.2015.11.006

4. Smith RN, Mann NJ, Braue A, Mäkeläinen H, Varigos GA. The effect of a high-protein, low glycemic-load diet versus a conventional, high glycemic-load diet on biochemical parameters associated with acne vulgaris: a randomized, investigator-masked, controlled trial. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2007;57(2):247-256. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2007.01.046

5. Reiser S, Handler HB, Gardner LB, et al. Isocaloric exchange of dietary starch and sucrose in humans. II. Effect on fasting blood insulin, glucose, and glucagon and on insulin and glucose response to a sucrose load. Am J Clin Nutr. 1979;32:2206–16.

6. Tasevska N, Jiao L, Cross AJ, et al. Sugars in diet and risk of cancer in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study. Int J Cancer. 2012;130(1):159-169. doi:10.1002/ijc.25990

7. Gkogkolou P, Böhm M. Advanced glycation end products: Key players in skin aging?. Dermatoendocrinol. 2012;4(3):259-270. doi:10.4161/derm.22028

8. Leung CW, Laraia BA, Needham BL, et al. Soda and Cell Aging: Associations Between Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption and Leukocyte Telomere Length in Healthy Adults From the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. American Journal of Public Health. 2014; 104(12): 2425–2431. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2014.302151

9. Gangwisch JE, Hale L, Garcia L, et al. High glycemic index diet as a risk factor for depression: analyses from the Women's Health Initiative. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015;102(2):454-463. doi:10.3945/ajcn.114.103846

10.  Breymeyer KL, Lampe JW, McGregor BA, Neuhouser ML. Subjective mood and energy levels of healthy weight and overweight/obese healthy adults on high-and low-glycemic load experimental diets. Appetite. 2016;107:253-259. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2016.08.008

11.  Gupta P, Gupta N, Pawar AP, Birajdar SS, Natt AS, Singh HP. Role of sugar and sugar substitutes in dental caries: a review. ISRN Dent. 2013;2013:519421. Published 2013 Dec 29. doi:10.1155/2013/519421

12.  Zheng, F., Yan, L., Yang, Z. et al. HbA1c, diabetes and cognitive decline: the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Diabetologia 61, 839–848 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00125-017-4541-7

13.  Margetic S, Gazzola C, Pegg GG, Hill RA. Leptin: a review of its peripheral actions and interactions. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2002;26(11):1407-1433. doi:10.1038/sj.ijo.0802142

14.  Ekmen N, Helvaci A, Gunaldi M, Sasani H, Yildirmak ST. Leptin as an important link between obesity and cardiovascular risk factors in men with acute myocardial infarction. Indian Heart J. 2016;68(2):132-137. doi:10.1016/j.ihj.2015.07.032

15.  Hou N, Luo JD. Leptin and cardiovascular diseases. Clin Exp Pharmacol Physiol. 2011;38(12):905-913. doi:10.1111/j.1440-1681.2011.05619.x

16.  Hellström L, Wahrenberg H, Hruska K, Reynisdottir S, Arner P. Mechanisms behind gender differences in circulating leptin levels. J Intern Med. 2000;247(4):457-462. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2796.2000.00678.x

17.  Yoshida R, Noguchi K, Shigemura N, et al. Leptin Suppresses Mouse Taste Cell Responses to Sweet Compounds. Diabetes. 2015;64(11):3751-3762. doi:10.2337/db14-1462

18.  Ahima RS. Revisiting leptin's role in obesity and weight loss. The Journal of Clinical Investigation. 2008 Jul 1; 118(7): 2380–2383. doi: 10.1172/JCI36284

19.  M. Bergendahl, W. S. Evans, C. Pastor, A. Patel, A. Iranmanesh, J. D. Veldhuis, Short-Term Fasting Suppresses Leptin and (Conversely) Activates Disorderly Growth Hormone Secretion in Midluteal Phase Women—A Clinical Research Center Study, The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Volume 84, Issue 3, 1 March 1999, Pages 883–894, https://doi.org/10.1210/jcem.84.3.5536

20.  Bhutani S, Klempel MC, Berger RA, Varady KA. Improvements in coronary heart disease risk indicators by alternate-day fasting involve adipose tissue modulations. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2010;18(11):2152-2159. doi:10.1038/oby.2010.54

21.  Kassab S, Abdul-Ghaffar T, Nagalla DS, Sachdeva U, Nayar U. Interactions between leptin, neuropeptide-Y and insulin with chronic diurnal fasting during Ramadan. Ann Saudi Med. 2004;24(5):345-349. doi:10.5144/0256-4947.2004.345

22.  J.A. Reed, J. Almeida, B. Wershing, B. Raudenbush. Effects of peppermint scent on appetite control and caloric intake. Appetite, 2008;51(2) https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2008.04.196


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