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There have been recent studies published that show people with Parkinson's tend to report a stronger craving for sweets and consume more fast acting carbohydrates (sweets and sodas) compared to people without PD. Too much sugar can lead to a slower cognitive function, poor memory, attention problems, and weakened blood vessels. It is important to control those cravings, but how? Let's find out.

I dare you to go into your pantry and start looking at the nutrition label. You will start to notice that a lot of the foods we buy have added sugar! It doesn't have to be candy, cookies, or cake, but it can be in foods like peanut butter, salad dressing, ketchup, pasta sauce, bread, and more! According to, here are a list of names that you can find on the ingredients list that mean sugar:

Basic Simple Sugars (monosaccharides and disaccharides):

  1. Dextrose

  2. Fructose

  3. Galactose

  4. Glucose

  5. Lactose

  6. Maltose

  7. Sucrose

Solid or Granulated Sugars:

  1. Beet sugar

  2. Brown sugar

  3. Cane juice crystals

  4. Cane sugar

  5. Castor sugar

  6. Coconut sugar

  7. Confectioner's sugar (aka, powdered sugar)

  8. Corn syrup solids

  9. Crystalline fructose

  10. Date sugar

  11. Demerara sugar

  12. Dextrin

  13. Diastatic malt

  14. Ethyl maltol

  15. Florida crystals

  16. Golden sugar

  17. Glucose syrup solids

  18. Grape sugar

  19. Icing sugar

  20. Maltodextrin

  21. Muscovado sugar

  22. Panela sugar

  23. Raw sugar

  24. Sugar (granulated or table)

  25. Sucanat

  26. Turbinado sugar

  27. Yellow sugar

Liquid or Syrup Sugars:

  1. Agave Nectar/Syrup

  2. Barley malt

  3. Blackstrap molasses

  4. Brown rice syrup

  5. Buttered sugar/buttercream

  6. Caramel

  7. Carob syrup

  8. Corn syrup

  9. Evaporated cane juice

  10. Fruit juice

  11. Fruit juice concentrate

  12. Golden syrup

  13. High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)

  14. Honey

  15. Invert sugar

  16. Malt syrup

  17. Maple syrup

  18. Molasses

  19. Rice syrup

  20. Refiner's syrup

  21. Sorghum syrup

  22. Treacle

Why is sugar cravings higher in PD?

Some studies will point to the microbiome as there is strong evidence suggesting Parkinson's and microbiome are connected in some way. Microbiome in the gut tend to use sugar as an energy source, which is why researchers theorize we see more cravings.

Another theory is fatigue related to PD. It is thought that people with PD that experience fatigue use sugar subconsciously as a way to boost their energy, and over time their body expects it. I am sure you have heard the term "carb crash." Think back to Thanksgiving after you ate a plate full of carbs. After a short while you just wanted to sleep. This is impacted by our blood sugar levels. When they rise quickly (due to eating simple carbs like sugar), it falls quickly. Almost like a rollercoaster effect. Some evidence suggests that you can help manage fatigue by keeping your blood sugar more stable, and more research suggests that keeping a more stable blood sugar can help slow the progression of motor symptoms.

Another big theory as to why we see an increase in sugar cravings is impulse control disorder (ICD). Sometimes, people with PD will experience increased impulse to gable, shop, and show hypersexual behavior. The same can happen with food addiction. If you experience impulse control issues, talk with your neurologist about medications that can help control these impulses, as ICD is more related to the dopamine levels in your brain. Eating food high in sugar can lead to a spike insulin which can help positively influence dopamine concentration in the brain. In other words, you may be subconsciously "self medicating" for the lack of dopamine.


How to stop those cravings

  1. You should always start by seeing a registered dietician. Eating a well balanced diet that is right for you takes an individualized approach and requires seeing the right professional. The food industry also makes labels and ingredients really hard to understand/read. A professional can help guide and educate you so you have the right tools to make healthy choices.

  2. Eat enough food! If you do not eat enough, your body does not have enough energy and will be looking for a quick spike in energy - cue the sugar!

  3. Add healthy fats. Healthy fats include avocado, eggs, nuts and seeds, and fish. This helps promote the feeling of fullness.

  4. Avoid foods with added sugars. Without realizing, you are training your body to expect sugar if you are eating foods with added sugar.

  5. Eliminate or limit sugary drinks. Water is the healthiest drink out there! Be careful when you are drinking juice, energy drinks, or other soft drinks and take a look at the nutrition label for sugar.

  6. Choose fruit over processed sugar. When you are feeling a craving, try grabbing a handful of frozen or fresh fruits. This will help put your sweet tooth in check while also providing important nutrients and minerals that you need to stay healthy!

  7. Exercise! Exercising helps your body regulate your blood sugar more effectively, so you have less rapid changes in blood sugar which can lead to those cravings.

  8. If you feel like your relationship with food is related to your cravings, talk with a professional to get help.

Cutting out sugar is HARD! Some people are successful with going cold turkey, others need a more gradual approach. Figure out which is best for you, ask your family and friends to help keep you accountable, and give it your best shot! I promise you, the better you eat the better you will feel. No one has ever regretting trying to cut out sugar, so what do you have to lose?



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