One solution that has been proposed to combat the ongoing obesity epidemic has been to replace caloric sugars with artificial sweeteners that provide sweet tastes without providing the associated calories. While such an idea seems to be common sense, scientific data supporting artificial sweeteners as beneficial for weight loss are weak. Further, more recent epidemiological data from long-term studies in a variety of human cohorts have indicated that daily consumption of artificial sweeteners may exacerbate metabolic disturbances like Type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and stroke. One explanation for such a counterintuitive result is that consuming sweet tastes without typical post-ingestive outcomes could interfere with basic learning processes that normally operate to regulate energy balance. Using data from an animal model, work from Dr. Swithers’ lab has explored how interfering with predictive relations between tastes and calories may contribute to negative health outcomes. The results suggest that obesity and its attendant co-morbidities are unlikely to be helped by consuming “diet” foods manufactured with sugar substitutes.
CE: 1.0 credit BACB