In a new study from USC, researchers found drinks that contain the artificial sweetener sucralose may increase food cravings and appetite in woman and people who are obese.
More than 40% of adults in the U.S. currently drink artificially sweetened beverages as a calorie-free way to satisfy a sweet tooth, and, in some cases, accomplish weight loss goals.
Despite their prevalence, the health consequences of artificial sweeteners are still highly debated, with no clear consensus on their effects on appetite, glucose metabolism and body weight.
In the study, the team tested 74 participants who, during the course of three different visits, consumed 300 milliliters of a drink sweetened with sucrose (table sugar), a drink sweetened with an artificial sweetener sucralose or water as a control.
Brain imaging showed increased activity in regions of the brain responsible for food cravings and appetite in both women and people who were obese after they consumed sucralose-containing drinks when compared to drinks containing real sugar.
The study also showed an across-the-board decrease in levels of hormones that tell the body ‘I feel full’ after participants drank the sucralose-containing drink compared to the sugar-containing drink.
This suggests artificially sweetened beverages may not be effective in suppressing hunger.
Finally, after female participants drank the sucralose-containing drink they ate more at the snack buffet than after they drank the sugar-containing drink, whereas snack food intake did not differ for male participants.
These findings suggest that females and people with obesity may be more sensitive to artificial sweeteners.
For these groups, drinking artificially sweetened drinks may trick the brain into feeling hungry, which may in turn result in more calories being consumed.
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The study is published in JAMA Network Open. One author of the study is Kathleen Page, MD.
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