What causes carb cravings? Is sugar 'addictive'?

Jed Stuber  ·  Sep 28, 2017

Gary Taubes is the best-selling author of Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health.

In this essay, he breaks down why we crave carbs, fall off our diets, and struggle to maintain a healthy weight. He says it's very important to understand that there are two schools of thought:

Researchers are generally divided not only on what causes obesity, but also why we have cravings and often fail to stay on diets. 

The conventional thinking, held by the large proportion of the many researchers and clinicians I’ve interviewed over the years, is that obesity is caused by caloric excess. They refer to it as an “energy balance” disorder, and so the treatment is to consume less energy (fewer calories) and expend more. When we fail to maintain this prescription, the implication is that we simply lack will power or self-discipline.

“It’s viewed as a psychological issue or even a question of character,” says Dr. David Ludwig, who studies and treats obesity at Harvard Medical School.

The minority position in this field — one that Dr. Ludwig holds, as do I after years of reporting — is that obesity is actually a hormonal regulatory disorder, and the hormone that dominates this process is insulin.

What should be our strategy for keeping insulin in check and fighting carb cravings? Read his explanation in the New York Times.