Monday, January 17, 2011

Diabetes, Diet, and Impulse Control

It's no secret that type 2 diabetics usually have trouble sticking to diets. Japanese scientists have found that nearly all type 2 diabetics have trouble resisting the impulse to eat foods they are not supposed to, regardless of their weight.

Dr. Yasuhiko Iwamoto of the Tokyo Women's Medical University in Japan and colleagues have identified specific regions of the brain in type 2 diabetics that tend to get "circuits crossed" when the diabetic is presented with tasty, fatty, sugary food.
The higher reasoning centers in the cerebral cortex are literally bypassed by the nerves that direct the hands to bring the food to the mouth. The higher the diabetic's HbA1C, which measures long-term blood sugar levels, the more problems he or she had with impulse control with regard to food.

Overweight diabetics actually exerted more self-control than normal-weight diabetics with the same HbA1C. All the type 2 diabetics recruited for the study were newly diagnosed, so it may be that people who are overweight already know they have diet problems and have made a practice of trying to exert self-control.

The Japanese doctors didn't have a recommendation for treating this problem other than keeping blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible--which is always a good idea. Psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Amen, however, recommends that his patients who have impulse issues follow these simple rules:

1. The brain produces the next day's supply of the impulse-control chemical dopamine in the two hours before midnight, so get to bed early.
2. Take grapeseed extract or ginkgo biloba to support circulation in the brain, activating the control center in the brain.
3. Make sure you get a complete protein (whether meat or a mixture of plant foods) sometime after noon and before bedtime. Your brain needs the amino acids to make the control chemicals that help you restrain your urges to eat.

But the very best thing any type 2 diabetic can do to control appetite is to keep blood sugar levels in control. When blood sugar levels are consistently normal, the thinking brain takes over from the hungry brain.


Ishizawa KT, Kumano H, Sato A, Sakura H, Iwamoto Y. Decreased response inhibition in middle-aged male patients with type 2 diabetes. Biopsychosoc Med. 2010 Feb 11;4(1):1

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