- US study tests how artificial sweeteners affect people’s appetite
- They found that people tend to eat more and feel hungry after eating sweets.
- The experiment showed that women and obese people had the greatest increase in appetite.
One study claimed that an artificial sweetener commonly added to soft drinks can actually increase food cravings and make people eat more.
Diet drinks are often used by people looking to lose weight who want a ‘healthy’ way to satisfy their sweet tooth.
But scientists believe that sweeteners can make people’s brains feel hungry, causing them to consume more calories.
Researchers at the University of Southern California tested the effects of sucralose on 74 volunteers.
The low-calorie sweetener is one of several used in the UK, others include aspartame which is used in drinks such as Diet Coke.
Researchers at the University of Southern California tested the effects of sucralose on 74 volunteers. The low-calorie sweetener is one of several used in the UK, others include aspartame which is used in drinks such as Diet Coke.
Participants in the new study were divided into equal numbers of men and women, classified as healthy weight, overweight, or obese.
All of them were asked to drink 300 ml of different fluids on three separate occasions.
On one occasion the liquid was a drink sweetened with standard sugar, and on another a substitute.
The last type of fluid was water, which was tested as a control for the experiment.
The researchers then measured three hunger responses among the participants over the next two hours.
What does the NHS say about artificial sweeteners?
Sucralose is one of several artificial sweeteners approved for use in the UK.
Dietitian Emma Carder says: ‘Research on sweeteners shows that they are perfectly safe to eat or drink on a daily basis as part of a healthy diet.
She also says they’re a really useful option for people with diabetes who need to watch their blood sugar levels while enjoying their favorite foods.
“Like sugar, sweeteners impart a sweet taste, but what sets them apart is that after consumption, they do not raise blood sugar levels,” she says.
It has been suggested that the use of artificial sweeteners may have a stimulating effect on appetite and, therefore, may play a role in weight gain and obesity.
But research into sweetness and appetite stimulation is inconsistent. Furthermore, there is little evidence from long-term studies to show that sweeteners cause weight gain.
He used an MRI To see how the participants’ brains reacted to images of high-calorie foods, such as burgers and donuts.
They also took blood samples to measure the levels of hormones related to hunger among the participants.
And the academics also looked at how much food people ate at the complimentary snack buffet provided at the end of each experimentation session.
The results of brain imaging experiments showed that women and obese people had increased food cravings after consuming drinks containing artificial sweeteners compared to drinks containing actual sugar.
All participants reported a reduction in the body’s appetite-controlling hormone after consuming artificial sweeteners compared to real sugar in the study.
Observing what volunteers ate from the buffet also showed that women ate more food after drinking artificial sweetener than sugar.
But the men did not, according to the results of the paper, which was published in jama network open.
However, the authors say that the snack bar observations should be treated with caution because the participants were asked to fast the night before the study. This meant that they were hungrier than usual.
Lead author Dr Kathleen Page said it was important to discover the effects of artificial sweeteners because many people used them as a weight loss aid.
“There is controversy surrounding the use of artificial sweeteners because many people are using them for weight loss,” she said.
According to the study, more than 40 percent of adults in the US currently use artificial sweeteners as a calorie-free way to satisfy their sweet tooth, and/or as a method for weight loss.
In 2020, an estimated 2.2 million people in the UK used artificial sweeteners four times a day or more, according to market research company Statista.
But Dr. Page said her research has shown that replacing real sugar with artificial sweeteners can actually make some people eat more.
“By studying different groups we were able to show that women and obese people may be more sensitive to artificial sweeteners,” she said.
‘For these groups, drinking artificially sweetened beverages may make the brain hungrier, resulting in the consumption of more calories.’