Effects of dietary glycemic index on brain regions related to reward and craving in men

From Me: In short, sugar is addictive (and needs to be regulated just like other addictive substances).


Effects of dietary glycemic index on brain regions related to reward and craving in men1,2,3,4

  1. Belinda S Lennerz,
  2. David C Alsop,
  3. Laura M Holsen,
  4. Emily Stern,
  5. Rafael Rojas,
  6. Cara B Ebbeling,
  7. Jill M Goldstein, and
  8. David S Ludwig

+ Author Affiliations

  1. 1From the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center, Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston, MA (BSL, CBE, and DSL); Ulm University, Ulm, Germany (BSL); the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, MA (DCA and RR); Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA (LMH, ES, and JMG), and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA (BSL, DCA, LMH, ES, RR, CBE, JMG, and DSL).

+ Author Notes

  • 2 Funding organizations had no role in the design or conduct of the study; collection, analysis, or interpretation of data; or preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript. The content of this manuscript is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institute of Mental Health, National Center for Research Resources, NIH, or Harvard Catalyst.

  • 3 Supported by grant K24DK082730 from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (Bethesda, MD), grant R01MH80729 from the National Institute of Mental Health (Bethesda, MD), and grant UL1 RR025758-01 from the National Center for Research Resources (Bethesda, MA) to the Harvard Catalyst Clinical and Translational Science Center at Harvard University; by a grant from the Pediatric Endocrine Society (McLean, VA), a grant from the Endocrine Fellows Foundation (Washington, DC); and by a grant from the New Balance Foundation (Boston, MA).

  • 4 Address correspondence to DS Ludwig, Division of Endocrinology, Boston Children’s Hospital, 300 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115. E-mail:


Background: Qualitative aspects of diet influence eating behavior, but the physiologic mechanisms for these calorie-independent effects remain speculative.

Objective: We examined effects of the glycemic index (GI) on brain activity in the late postprandial period after a typical intermeal interval.

Design: With the use of a randomized, blinded, crossover design, 12 overweight or obese men aged 18–35 y consumed high- and low-GI meals controlled for calories, macronutrients, and palatability on 2 occasions. The primary outcome was cerebral blood flow as a measure of resting brain activity, which was assessed by using arterial spin-labeling functional magnetic resonance imaging 4 h after test meals. We hypothesized that brain activity would be greater after the high-GI meal in prespecified regions involved in eating behavior, reward, and craving.

Results: Incremental venous plasma glucose (2-h area under the curve) was 2.4-fold greater after the high- than the low-GI meal (P = 0.0001). Plasma glucose was lower (mean ± SE: 4.7 ± 0.14 compared with 5.3 ± 0.16 mmol/L; P = 0.005) and reported hunger was greater (P = 0.04) 4 h after the high- than the low-GI meal, respectively. At this time, the high-GI meal elicited greater brain activity centered in the right nucleus accumbens (a prespecified area; P = 0.0006 with adjustment for multiple comparisons) that spread to other areas of the right striatum and to the olfactory area.

Conclusions: Compared with an isocaloric low-GI meal, a high-GI meal decreased plasma glucose, increased hunger, and selectively stimulated brain regions associated with reward and craving in the late postprandial period, which is a time with special significance to eating behavior at the next meal. This trial was registered at as NCT01064778.

  • Received April 10, 2013.
  • Accepted June 13, 2013.


The above was referenced from where they state in part:

Brain Addiction To Fast Carbs Is Real, Imaging Study Shows

Highly processed carbohydrates can trigger the same brain mechanism associated with substance addiction, researchers from the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital reported in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (June 26th, 2013 issue).



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