Updated on 25 September 2013
The brain's reward system is highly activated when the body receives a sugar. This might be the reason behind increasing obesity rates despite consumption of artificial sweeteners
Singapore: A new study by researchers at Yale University School of Medicine, US, found that the brain can differentiate between real and artificial sugar and also found that eating food with artificial sweeteners increases cravings for sugary treats later. The study is published in the Journal of Physiology.
The study revealed that the brain's reward system is highly activated when the body receives a sugary solution rather than artificial sweeteners. The scientists believe that this might be the reason behind increasing obesity rates despite consumption of artificial sweeteners.
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. 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.
Dr Ivan de Araujo, who led the study, said that, "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. 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."
"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," Dr Araujo further said.