My recent blog post on food coma (14-Jan-2019) not only uncovered another hidden symptom in MSers but has led us to start exploring this phenomenon in our patients and, hopefully, to some evidence-based advice on how to manage the problem.
In our short web survey on food coma, I was surprised to find that 86% of MSers report this phenomenon with 28 of the 81 respondents (35%) reporting their food coma as being severe or severe-and-incapacitating. When exploring the science I was surprised to uncover that insulin, the hormone that the pancreas releases in response to carbohydrates or sugar, is one of the main mediators of food coma. How could this be when my mother always used to accuse me of having a sugar rush as a child? A sugar rush is a so-called period of hyperactivity that occurs after ingesting too much sugar in a short period of time.
I was therefore not surprised to read the following well-done metanalysis debunking this piece of dogma. On the contrary, sugar does not cause a sugar rush, but a sugar crash, another term for food coma.
This and other evidence keeps mounting against sugar and the sugar industry. There seems to be very little reason for anyone to consume sugar or processed carbohydrates in any form. This is why nutritionists have started to refer to processed carbohydrates as empty calories.
So I am going to repeat myself again if you want to select a diet that is healthy for you can I suggest a real-food diet low in carbohydrates, i.e. free of all processed carbohydrates. This means you may need to get most of your calories from fats and proteins. The carbohydrates you eat on the real-food diet will be unprocessed with a low glycaemic index. As a result of this diet, you will keep your insulin levels low and hence you will reduce your postprandial hypersomnolence or ‘food coma’.
Keeping your insulin levels low will have other positive effects on your health; i.e. it will help you maintain a healthy weight, counteract insulin resistance and hence your chances of developing the metabolic syndrome (insulin resistance, diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidaemia and obesity) and it should reduce your risk of developing common cancers.
What is there to lose? How easy is it to stick to the real-food diet? You tell me.
Mantantzis et al. Sugar rush or sugar crash? A meta-analysis of carbohydrate effects on mood. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2019 Jun;101:45-67.
The effect of carbohydrate (CHO) consumption on mood is much debated, with researchers reporting both mood improvements and decrements following CHO ingestion. As global consumption of sugar-sweetened products has sharply increased in recent years, examining the validity of claims of an association between CHOs and mood is of high importance. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to evaluate the relationship between acute CHO ingestion and mood. We examined the time-course of CHO-mood interactions and considered the role of moderator variables potentially affecting the CHO-mood relationship. Analysis of 176 effect sizes (31 studies, 1259 participants) revealed no positive effect of CHOs on any aspect of mood at any time-point following their consumption. However, CHO administration was associated with higher levels of fatigue and less alertness compared with placebo within the first-hour post-ingestion. These findings challenge the idea that CHOs can improve mood, and might be used to increase the public’s awareness that the ‘sugar rush’ is a myth, inform health policies to decrease sugar consumption, and promote healthier alternatives.