Consuming broom soda and other foods sweetened with artificial sweeteners may increase food cravings in some people, a new study has found, with the effects most prominent in women and people with obesity.
The study, published in the medical journal JAMA Network Opencame to the conclusion that sucralose, the sweetener in diet soda, can lead to increased appetite after monitoring reward activity in the brain.
To determine the effect of artificial sweetener consumption, researchers recruited 74 study participants aged 18 to 35 years, all of whom were weight-stable, and had no history of eating disorders or diabetes, drinking beverages sweetened with sucralose as well as drinking sweetened with sugar.
Participants’ responses were then analyzed using functional MRI scans, blood tests to measure blood sugar and metabolic hormones, and how much they ate at a buffet.
According to study author Kathleen Page, a physician specializing in obesity at the University of Southern California, the experiment found that women and people with obesity had greater brain reward activity after consuming the artificial sweetener. NPR reported.
Greater brain reward activity means that individuals in these groups are tricked into thinking they are hungry after consuming beverages sweetened with the artificial sweetener, and in return, they may ingest more calories.
“For these groups, drinking artificially sweetened beverages can entice the brain to feel hungry, which in turn can result in more calories being ingested,” said Dr. Page in the press release according to WebMD.
Interestingly, the study found that men and individuals of healthy weight did not have an increased hunger response and were not affected by consuming artificial sweeteners in the same way.
The researchers also noted that their findings follow previous conflicting studies on artificial sweeteners, with some studies reporting benefits when dependent on sugar alternatives, while others have chained the sweeteners together with weight gain or diabetes.
“Our results suggest that female and obese individuals, and especially obese female individuals, may be particularly sensitive to greater neural responsiveness induced by sucralose compared to sucrose consumption,” the study concluded, adding that the results highlight “the need to consider individual biological factors in research studies and potentially in dietary recommendations regarding the use and efficacy of [artificial sweeteners] for body weight management ”.