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Diet Soda: The Brain Knows Better
08-26-2009, 07:26 AM,
Diet Soda: The Brain Knows Better
Have you ever noticed that people with weight problems drink diet soda?

It’s just correlation, not causation, right? Well, maybe yes and maybe no. As you sit down to Sunday brunch, perhaps it’s time to reconsider that Diet Coke.

Research suggests that artificial sweeteners — which basically fool our tongues by binding to and stimulating receptors on the taste buds (Scientific American has a great explanation here) — may mess up the brain’s connection between sweetness and caloric intake.

After all, sweetness is meant to signal to the body that it’s getting something it wants desperately: metabolic energy. If a certain amount of sweetness (the artificial sweetener) suddenly represents significantly less metabolic energy (fewer calories), the brain will want more and more sweetness as it fails to be satisfied.

Here’s what scientists at Purdue University reported in a recent paper (PDF) in Behavioral Neuroscience, about an experiment where they fed rats artificial sweeteners:

We found that reducing the correlation between sweet taste and the caloric content of foods using artificial sweeteners in rats resulted in increased caloric intake, increased body weight, and increased adiposity, as well as diminished caloric compensation and blunted thermic responses to sweet-tasting diets. These results suggest that consumption of products containing artificial sweeteners may lead to increased body weight and obesity by interfering with fundamental homeostatic, physiological processes.

A similar effect has been observed in humans. In one experiment, 12 women were put in an fMRI machine (not all at the same time, of course), and given water sweetened with either real sugar (sucrose) or Splenda (sucralose). While their tongues couldn’t tell the difference, their brains could.

The sugar and Splenda both activated the taste and pleasure pathways in the brains. But while the sugar activated the pleasure-related brain regions more extensively than the Splenda did, the Splenda inspired more communication between the regions in the reward system that encode the sens­a­tion of pleasantness.

The scientists’ hypothesis is that with Splenda, the brain’s reward system becomes activated, but not satiated. In other words, there’s less of a feedback mechanism to stop the craving and become satisfied.

In other words, we can fool our taste buds, but it looks like our brains know better — and they’re not amused.

08-26-2009, 09:11 AM,
Diet Soda: The Brain Knows Better
Yeah, that's what I heard, too. I thought it was common knowledge by now, if you ingest artificial sweeteners, you'll crave carbs afterwards.
05-31-2010, 05:50 PM,
RE: Diet Soda: The Brain Knows Better
Diet soda is what many people turn to when they are looking for a lower calorie alternative to sugary, high calorie sodas. Diet soda is useful for every one.There are really no health benefits to drinking diet sodas over their sugary counterparts, other than calorie reduction because of their lack of calories and sugar. Drinking diet soda alone will not make a person lose weight.

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