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Do Low Carbs Cause Appetite Suppression?

By Mary Lehrman, Ph.D. ; Updated July 18, 2017

Many people are trying to lose weight or maintain their present weights. Suppressing appetite is key to preventing overeating. Some people crave carbohydrates, such as bread products, chips, cakes and cookies. This craving may lead a person to eat too many carbohydrates. Some people find that following a low carbohydrate diet helps with appetite suppression.

Low Carbohydrate Diets

Carbohydrates are an energy source that is found in foods that contain starches and sugars, such as breads, rice, grains, and starchy fruits and vegetables. A low carbohydrate diet is a way of eating that involves reducing the intake of these foods and eating more protein and fat. On a low carb diet, a person consumes between 20 to 60 grams of carbohydrate a day, or less than 20 percent of total daily calories, as noted in a June, 2006 article in the “American Family Physician.” There are several popular low carb diets that have various phases, each with specific carb recommendations.

Defining Appetite

Appetite is the psychological desire to eat food and is affected by environmental factors, according to A Dietitian’s Exchange website. Sometimes, appetite is described as a conditioned response to food. For example, a person going past a bakery and smells fresh-baked bread may develop an appetite for bread. Appetite is often confused with hunger. Hunger is the physiological need for food. The internal body regulates hunger and often signals this need by a growling in the stomach or lower blood sugar levels. Hunger is relieved after eating a small bowl of pasta, but appetite causes a person to have a large bowl of pasta, or even seconds, and eat until feeling stuffed.

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Low Carbohydrate Diet and Appetite

Studies have found that low carbohydrate eating can help with short term weight loss and may curb hunger, according to the June, 2006 "American Family Physician" article. Preliminary findings indicate that people have less food cravings and appetite when on low carbohydrate diets. In a study in the April 2011 issue of “Obesity,” participants following a low carbohydrate diet had significantly less cravings and preferences for carbohydrates than those on a low calorie diet plan. Men participants experienced less cravings than women.

How Low Carbohydrate Diets Curb Appetite

The mechanism for how eating a diet lower in carbohydrates helps curb the appetite is unknown. A higher intake of protein is thought to be the contributing factor. In a study in the July 2005 issue of the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,” blood tests of participants following a high protein diet were collected to determine levels of two hormones involved in appetite suppression: leptin and ghrelin. To the researchers surprise, leptin levels fell and ghrelin rose, which was opposite of what was expected. The investigators noted that more research is needed to determine how low carbohydrate, high protein diets suppress appetite.

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