Artificial sweeteners trick the brain

When there is a mismatch between calories and sweetness the brain dials down the metabolism
Gareth Fuller PA

When it does not happen, the brain confuses it for lesser calories to burn.

Metabolism of energy becomes less while the energy as well the sweetness are not matched and signals transferred to the brain gets inaccurate or weak.

Tam Fry, of the National Obesity Forum, added: "This research should be enough to convince you that artificial ingredients, whether they be in food or drink, can screw up your system even though they may sound healthy". These sweeteners might lack calories, but not consequences, of which, diabetes is only one.

"In other words, the assumption that more calories trigger greater metabolic and brain response is wrong", Small said. However, when a mismatch occurs, the calories fail to trigger the body's metabolism and the reward circuits in the brain fail to register that calories have been consumed. "Calories are only half of the equation; sweet taste perception is the other half".

"Our bodies evolved to efficiently use the energy sources available in nature", Small said.

The brain needs sweetness to start burning calories
The brain needs sweetness to start burning calories Credit Anthony Devlin PA

For the new study, scientists scanned the brains of 15 people when they were drinking diet drinks, and compared them to regular beverages.

The findings revealed that apart from the failure of the calories in triggering metabolism, the mismatch of sweetness and calories also resulted in the failure of the reward circuits inside the brain in registering that consumption of the calories had been done.

Calories that aren't being metabolized were probably stored, she said, and may be an important clue into the mechanics behind metabolic syndrome, a condition that leads to heart disease and diabetes.

"A calorie is not a calorie", said senior author Dana Small, professor of psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine.

He also stated that an analysis of experiments in which sugar sweetened drinks were replaced by artificially flavored drinks showed some weight loss.

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