It's a common practice to use artificial sweeteners these days. Packaged foods, beverages and sometimes even packages ice-creams contain these sugar substitutes. Many people also prefer artificial sweeteners over sugar to tackle with weight gain and obesity, knowing little that it might have an opposite effect. A newly conducted study has revealed that artificial sweeteners may affect the part of the brain that regulates hunger in such a way that it can stimulate appetite. The study that was published in the journal, 'Cell Metabolism,' assessed how artificial sweeteners affected the brain in altering taste perceptions and regulating appetite for food.
The study was conducted by the researchers at the University of Sydney's Charles Perkins Centre and the Garvan Institute of Medical Research. The team discovered a new system in the brain that senses and integrates the sweetness and energy content of the food.
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Professor Greg Neely, lead researcher and Associate from the University of Sydney's Faculty of Science said, "After chronic exposure to a diet that contained the artificial sweetener sucralose, we saw that animals began eating a lot more.
For the study, some fruit flies were exposed to a diet filled with artificial sweetener for long periods of time (more than five days) and were found to consume 30 per cent more calories as compared to naturally sweetened food.
“Through systematic investigation of this effect, we found that inside the brain's reward centres, sweet sensation is integrated with energy content. When sweetness versus energy is out of balance for a period of time, the brain recalibrates and increases total calories consumed,” added Professor Greg Neely.
This is the first ever study carried out for identifying a complex neuronal network that responds to artificially sweetened food by telling the animal it hasn't eaten enough energy.
"When we investigated why animals were eating more even though they had enough calories, we found that chronic consumption of this artificial sweetener actually increases the sweet intensity of real nutritive sugar, and this then increases the animal's overall motivation to eat more food," said Professor Neely.