Insulin Response to Sight and Smell of Sweet Foods

My co-worker brought in a box of donuts to the office yesterday and placed them on her desk, right behind mine. I sat there for two hours forcing myself not to look at the donut box, but even without the visual of those scruptious donuts, I could still smell them. I could smell their sweet flavour and I got so hungry that I had to ask my co-worker to move them to another part of the office. I felt a bit stupid. People must think I don’t have any self control, but actually I had more self control than they realize. Despite my hunger, I refrained from even snacking that day and waited until dinner to eat. It was a proud moment for myself.

The evolution of the “sweet tooth” is quite fascinating, but even more interesting is how our bodies have evolved to respond to the mere suggestion of incoming calories. Even at the sight or smell of sweets, lets say donuts, our brains trigger a reaction in our bodies called the Cephalic Phase Insulin Response. This response causes body to start producing insulin, the “fat” hormone, which stores sugar in the blood stream, and programs the adipose tissue fat cells (belly fat) to store everything they can. And all of this before even one donut touches your lips.

What happens in your body following a release of insulin that is not met with a stomach full of donut is that your blood sugar drops. Because your brain thrives on the glucose in your blood, and because now there is less of it because your body thought it was going to have a donut but didn’t, your brain tells your body it needs food. This brain hunger further triggers strong cravings for more sweet-tasting items, and high glycemic foods.

So, when I told my co-worker to move the donuts away from my smell range I had a valid point. Even though I hadn’t eaten a donut my insulin was going up, my blood sugar was going down and my craving for food was going through the roof, not because I have poor self-control, but because my brain was saying it didn’t have enough glucose. What a vicious cycle.

There are two articles published about this topic that I learned a great deal from. They can be found at and…e-eat-now.html.

Here’s to not breaking down and eating those bloody donuts .

1 comment to Insulin Response to Sight and Smell of Sweet Foods

  • Kayley Lewis

    I really appreciate you publishing this. It is very helpful. When i was about 8 years of age, i was diagnosed with Hyperinsulinemia, or “Syndrome X”, which, in essence, is a metabolic disorder in which the body produces TOO MUCH insulin, and causes my body to store anything i eat as fat. It is just on the other end of the spectrum in comparison to Diabetes, which, i am told, i can develop if i don’t monitor the foods i eat.

    Thanks again for publishing this,
    Kayley (Syndrome X girl)

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