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Sugar or Sweetener?

Author: Oksana Aron, MD Source: Weight Loss NYC Jun 21, 2014

Taste with Your Brain?

Over recent years many people have been reaching for artificial sweeteners, thinking that it’s healthier than the real thing. It turns out that your tastebuds don’t know the difference between sugar and sweetener — but your brain does.

A new study out of the Netherlands used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure brain responses in people sipping two different orangeade drinks — one mixed with sugar and another mixed with four artificial sweeteners (aspartame, acesulfame K, cyclamate and saccharin).

The sugar and sweeteners were found to stimulate the amygdala, which is the part of the brain that detects pleasure. Only the sugared drink stimulated the caudate in the brain, showing that the human brain can tell the difference between a caloric drink and a noncaloric one.

Other research on artificially sweetened beverages include:

  • They can activate parts of the brain that create appetite, but do not satiate it.
  • Increased appetite has been found to occur in people who don’t consume artificially sweetened beverages often.
  • People who drink artificially sweetened beverages regularly tend to weigh more than those who don’t.
  • For those who consume a lot of artificially sweetened beverages, however, their brains, can become used to the sweeteners and may not necessarily cause them to eat more.
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