Drinking diet sodas may increase cravings for high-calorie foods, study finds

The sweeteners used in diet sodas can boost cravings for sweet foods and drinks.

Photo: Karolina Grabowska / Pexels

Diet or sugar-free sodas may seem like an ideal option for those who want to reduce calorie intake to control or lose weight, but according to recent research, These drinks could lead you to crave high-calorie foods.

The sweeteners used in diet or diet sodas contain few or no calories, but have a higher intensity of sweetness than the calorie sweeteners. Among the most popular artificial sweeteners used in beverages are aspartame and sucralose.

The Harvard School of Public Health notes that some studies indicate that drinks with low-calorie sweeteners also can cause weight gain by stimulating the appetite and the preference for sweets in some people.

A study published recently in the journal Nutrition, Obesity, and Exercise adds evidence that indicates that Drinks made with sucralose can stimulate appetite, especially in women and people with obesity.

In the study, 72 adult participants drank water, a sugary drink, or a drink sweetened with sucralose (an artificial sweetener with no calories). How the brains responded to images of high-calorie foods was tested, as shown in an MRI scan of areas of the brain associated with cravings.

The researchers also used blood samples to measure blood sugar and metabolic hormones that can drive hunger.

After consuming the artificial sweetener, women and people with obesity had higher brain reward activity, compared to regular sugar-sweetened beverages.

The men and people of a healthy weight who participated in the study did not have an increase in reward activity of the brain or in response to hunger.

The effects of low calorie artificial sweeteners are inconclusive, research shows mixed results.

Prior to this study, researchers at the University of California-San Diego also performed functional MRIs on volunteers as they sipped water sweetened with sugar or sucralose. Sugar activated brain regions involved in food reward and sucralose did not.

Although sugar indicates a positive feeling of reward, Low calorie sweeteners may not be an effective way to control your sweet tooth.

Harvard explains that the human brain responds to sweetness with signals to eat more. However, by providing a sweet taste with no calories, drinks with low calorie sweeteners can make us crave more sweet foods and beverages, which can add up to excess calories.

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