The link between the sweetness of a food and its caloric content may be a trait that our bodies have evolved to recognise. By disrupting what could be a “fundamental homeostatic, physiological process” by using artificial sweeteners, we could be promoting obesity.
That’s the conclusion Jonah Lehrer draws from a study that looks at how sweet tastes may be used to regulate our caloric intake and the adverse effects of diet sodas.
Adult male Sprague-Dawley rats were given differential experience with a sweet taste that either predicted increased caloric content (glucose) or did not predict increased calories (saccharin). We found that reducing the correlation between sweet taste and the caloric content of foods using artificial sweeteners in rats resulted in increased caloric intake, increased body weight, and increased adiposity, as well as diminished caloric compensation and blunted thermic responses to sweet-tasting diets. These results suggest that consumption of products containing artificial sweeteners may lead to increased body weight and obesity by interfering with fundamental homeostatic, physiological processes.