No doubt about it, most humans, including me, LOVE sweet things. I feel grateful that artificial sweetners allow me to cheat ……….. get sugar taste without sugar calories.
But turns out “There is no such thing as a free lunch” ……. in the world of sugar.
LOVE affair with sweetness is a brain thing
The taste buds in the tongue (and ears) are the characters each bite you eat, is trying to please, right ?
Actually science is discovering sweetness goes beyond just titillating those taste buds, sweetness kindles excitement in the brain. The big problem, artificial sweetners don’t always DO IT for the brain.
So going “on diet”, by swopping out the real thing (sugar) for chemical alternatives – may leave the brain less than satisfied.
Sweet treats for sweet blind mice
Researchers from Duke University, genetically tweaked mice so that they could not taste sweet things. They achieved this by shutting down the sweet taste receptor cells.
The mice were then exposed to “sweet treats” and observed to see which beverage they preferred.
Now any self-respecting mouse is a lot like a human, the sweeter it is the better. This is why mice on occasion can lose their lives in a mouse trap baited with chocolate. Despite the cliché, cheese is often not a big enough temptation to risk life and limb, but something sweet most definitely is worth running the gauntlet for.
Sweet blind does not mean the brain
The options available for our genetically modified mice were
- Straight sugar water with a healthy dose of good old fashioned sucrose
- A diet beverage, just as sweet, but minus the calories, due to the fact that the sugar had been substituted with sucralose.
Both options are equally sweet, but the mice preferred the real deal. Since it is unlikely they could tell the difference based on taste – the preference was driven by something else.
The something else, the brain doing a caloric intake calculation.
Sweet preference driven by calorie content
The mice “knew” one version was providing energy the other, was not.
Researchers were able to show, using electrophysiological equipment (wires in the brain), that the real deal triggered the release of the brain chemical dopamine, in an area of the brain known as the nucleus accumbens.
NOTE : Dashes of dopamine are what makes things pleasant and worth while. The release of dollops of dopamine are what cause the trouble for drug addicts because drugs of abuse drizzle large quantities of dopamine into the nucleus accumbens.
The mice brain was quick to figure out that the artificial sweetner was a poorer option, within 10 minutes the animals had switched to the real thing.
Trouble in our artificial world
This research represents a conundrum for the dieter.
- Too much of the real thing packs on the pounds.
- Too much of the artificial thing packs on the pounds.
Doomed if you do, doomed if you don’t.
Dieter take care
When “dieting” it is important to understand a meal needs to satisfy the tongue, as well as the brain or you need to exercise those higher thinking centres a little and think for your brain.
Artificial sweetners can cause weight loss programmes to flounder because ….
- You end up eating more because the “I’m full !” signal doesn’t kick in
- You end up eating more because you think you can !
- You LOVE sugar more because you are feeding your fetish for sweet things, the more “sugar” you eat the more “sugar” you want.
Use artificial sweetners with caution
You can’t live without them as a person prone to heffa-lumpitis, but just make sure you use them with caution………………..
Always apply the weight formula
Energy in must equal energy out, to avoid packing on those pounds.Food Reward in the Absence of Taste Receptor Signaling. Neuron (2008) 57(6):930-941. Ivan E. de Araujo, Albino J. Oliveira-Maia, Tatyana D. Sotnikova, Raul R. Gainetdinov, Marc G. Caron, Miguel A.L. Nicolelis and Sidney A. Simon
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