Hypoglycaemia & food cravings

Hypoglycaemia is literally a Greek translation from “hypo” meaning ‘under’, “glykis” meaning ‘sweet’ and “emia” meaning ‘in the blood together’. The three bits all put together mean low blood sugar. Hypoglycaemia describes the state your body is in if your blood sugar levels are too low. When your blood sugar levels are too low, this is potentially life threatening and your body will try to get you to eat to return your blood glucose levels to normal.

Early Literature

Here are some examples of the passages that Zoë discovered during her research into Hypoglycaemia (also called Low Blood Sugar or Low Blood Glucose) where doctors and researchers detailed their patient case notes and findings from studying the condition:

If the pancreas is overactive, sugar isn’t going to quiet it down; it will stimulate the gland still more. So it is that the person with low blood sugar makes himself worse by eating sugar, and the ironic feature of the disorder is the craving for sweets that accompanies it. Have you ever seen the fat man with the box of candy in his lap, protesting that the more he eats, the more he craves sweets? He may be telling the truth. He may be a victim of low blood sugar, with obesity as his price for it.”

New Low Blood Sugar and You by Carlton Fredericks.

All he wanted was sugar. He craved sugar like a wino craves muscatel. He ran from one store to another buying candy bars. He discovered he was not alone. They don’t teach them about hypoglycaemia in medical schools.”

Sugar Blues by William Duffy.

Hypoglycaemia has been called the ‘hunger disease’. The fluctuations in blood sugar levels cause frequent hunger pangs that are relieved only by constant overeating. The inevitable consequence of this is becoming overweight… We know that hypoglycaemia is invariably temporarily relieved by taking more sugar. For this reason there is a close relationship between overweight and hypoglycaemia… The obese person who ‘must” have a chocolate, the alcoholic who ‘must’ have one more drink, are probably suffering from the same withdrawal symptoms brought about by low blood sugar.”

Blood sugar (Hypoglycaemia) The 20th Century Epidemic? by Martin L. Budd.

Medical Journals

Zoë is not aware of anyone who has researched these conditions and connected them in the way that she has – certainly not in the 1990s as she did. Research into each individual condition and their impact on eating is becoming more prevalent. Here are three journal articles about Hypoglycaemia where “a greater desire for high-calorie foods”, “cravings for food” and confirmation of “the predominant craving for carbohydrates” are documented.

“We have shown here that mild hypoglycemia preferentially activates limbic-striatal brain regions in response to food cues to produce a greater desire for high-calorie foods.”[Reference i]

“Acute hypoglycaemia produces a highly reliable generalised increase in cravings for food, particularly foodstuffs with a high content of carbohydrate.”[ii]

“The present experiments were carried out in an earlier stage of hypoglycaemia… They confirm the predominant craving for carbohydrates. At one point of the blood glucose scale this becomes so great that the normal dislike for the excessive sweetness of a 30 per cent sucrose solution is reversed into a preference for this liquid. The hypoglycaemic subject not only chooses the solution best suited to replace the glucose deficit, but also discriminates between two compounds of equal sweetness, where one is able to replace the loss of glucose and the other unable to do so. The discrimination is sharpest where the need is greatest.”[iii]

More Information

Stop Counting Calories & Start Losing Weight and/or Why Do You Overeat? When all you want is to be slim will explain: What is Hypoglycaemia? What causes Hypoglycaemia? How do you know if you have Hypoglycaemia? What is the connection between Hypoglycaemia and food cravings? How can you treat Hypoglycaemia?

For more information, take a look at this short video:

Further Information

“Hypoglycaemia – the disease your doctor won’t treat” by Saunders and Ross (1980)
“Low blood glucose (Hypoglycaemia). The twentieth century epidemic?” by Martin L Budd (1983)
“New low blood sugar and you” by Carlton Fredericks (1985)

[i] Page et al (2011) “Circulating glucose levels modulate neural control of desire for high-calorie foods in humans.” (Journal of Clinical Investigation) http://www.jci.org/articles/view/57873
[ii] Strachan et al (2004) “Food cravings during acute hypoglycaemia in adults with Type 1 diabetes” (Journal of Physiology and Behaviour) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0031938403003391
[iii] Mayer-Gross & Walker (1946) “Taste and Selection of Food in Hypoglycaemia” (British Journal of Experimental Pathology) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2065825/ (Full article available)
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Website Comments

  1. avatar Sarah

    Hi, my partner has type 2 diabetes and has had it for around 10 years. He is 37, overweight and we have a one year old daughter. He is scared he will die young and although we would l I’ll keep another baby he is worried he won’t be around to see his children grow up etc.
    I know several people who are on this diet who have lost over 5 stone in total, I was wondering if this is a good diet for my partner to loose weight, help control house diabetes and potentially allow him to live well past 45?
    Many Thanks


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