Sweetness and the Problem with Diet Sodas

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.