Meal Composition and Carbohydrate Craving

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
September/October 1999 Volume 10, Number 5
©1999 Gürze Books

New Zealand researchers have found that eating a protein-rich meal can increase the desire for sweet-tasting , palatable food in certain individuals (Addictive Behav 1999;24:305).

In the study, 9 women ate 3 meals containing varying amounts of protein and carbohydrate. Appetite and mood ratings were measured at 30, 60, 105, and 150 minutes after beginning the meal. The first ad libitum eating episodes after the protein meal contained significantly higher absolute and proportional amounts of total carbohydrate and sucrose.

The authors offered several possible explanations for the increased craving for sweet-tasting foods after the protein meal. First, due to the process of sensory-specific satiety, the protein meal could have resulted in a lessened preference for foods with similar sensory properties. Second, even after sequential meals, a protein-rich meal is known to produce relative decreases in plasma tryptophan, the amino acid precursor to serotonin. Finally, the lack of a sweet food signaling the end of a rich meal may leave susceptible persons craving such foods.

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