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The brain knows when it needs sugar and can’t be fooled by artificial sweeteners, even if it is sweeter than real sugar.
A new study has found that the brain can differentiate between real and artificial sugar. What’s worse? Eating food with artificial sweeteners will only increase cravings for sugary treats later.
The brain’s reward system is highly activated when the body receives a sugary solution rather than artificial sweeteners. Researchers at Yale University School of Medicine USA, believe that the research might explain the reason behind increasing obesity rates despite artificial sweeteners existing for years now.
Food seasoned with artificial sweeteners is extremely popular. In the U.S., about 30 percent of people eat stuff that has sugar substitutes. Previously, Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, had published an article about artificial sweeteners’ effect on the body. Another recent study had found that drinking a can of diet soda can increase the risk of diabetes.
Researchers in the study argue that eating food containing artificial sweeteners, especially while you are hungry, will make you consume more sugar later.
In the study, researchers looked at specific brain signals that are associated with determining the difference between sugar and artificial sweeteners. These signals regulate the release of dopamine levels.
Dopamine is a chemical messenger and affects processes that control behavior, emotional response and more importantly the ability to feel pleasure. The chemical plays a major role in addiction.
The study was conducted on a group of mice and researchers looked for specific brain circuits while the mice were fed sugar or artificial sweeteners.
“According to the data, when we apply substances that interfere with a critical step of the ‘sugar-to-energy pathway’, the interest of the animals in consuming artificial sweetener decreases significantly, along with important reductions in brain dopamine levels,” said Ivan de Araujo, who led the study at Yale University School of Medicine USA.
“This is verified by the fact that when hungry mice – who thus have low sugar levels – are given a choice between artificial sweeteners and sugars, they are more likely to completely switch their preferences towards sugars even if the artificial sweetener is much sweeter than the sugar solution,” de Araujo said in a news release.
So, can there be a sugar substitute that can help people reduce weight without punishing the taste buds?
“The results suggest that a ‘happy medium’ could be a solution; combining sweeteners with minimal amounts of sugar so that energy metabolism doesn’t drop, while caloric intake is kept to a minimum,” Araujo said.
The study is published in the Journal of Physiology.