Not all foods are created equal, drinks that contain lots of sugar (soda, energy drinks, some coffee drinks etc.), white bread and other processed carbs that cause the levels of blood sugar to spike and drop dramatically actually activate the sections of the brain that are in control of hunger, cravings and rewards. The supposition by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition is that these foods encourage some people to eat to much, too often.

The lead author of the study and Director of New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital, Dr. David Ludwig suggests that avoiding these foods may help individuals who struggle with their weight to curb their cravings and lose weight as a result. “This research suggests that based on their effects on brain metabolism, all calories are not alike,” he said. “Not everybody who eats processed carbohydrates develops uncontrollable food cravings. But for the person who has been struggling with weight in our modern food environment and unable to control their cravings, limiting refined carbohydrate may be a logical first step.”

Avoiding these foods also seem to be the key to keeping weight off once it has been lost. Unfortunately, those who lose weight tend to gain it back in six months to one year, but those who limit the high-glycemic foods in their diets (foods like white rice, juice, soda, candy) have measurably more success in continued health and not gaining the weight back.

As stated above, those high-glycemic foods also impact the “rewards” portion of the brain, the nucleus accembens. Foods like chocolate cakes and gummy bears light that portion of the brain up whereas foods like celery or carrots do not. Those individuals who are obese tend to have a higher level of activation than those who are lean as well.

One of the problems discovered by the researchers was that these bad carbs would not only cause the blood sugar to spike but once it dropped, it would drop to very, very low levels that would spur the brain to initiate cravings for more of these high-glycemic carbs to recover from this hypoglycemic state.

The underlying message in this study is that not all carbs are equal and the message that has been told to the American public to simply eat less and exercise more is incorrect. It is also important to evaluate the food being eaten and limit the refined carbs and try to eat more whole foods.