Lab+Life Scientist Aug/Sep 2016

Page 23

sweet research

Adam Florance


Artificial sweeteners make you hungrier

As well as promoting hyperactivity and insomnia, a new study co-led by the University of Sydney has found that artificial sweeteners actually increase feelings of hunger leading to higher calorific intake.


Professor Neely said: “Using this response to artificially sweetened diets, we were able to functionally map a new neuronal network that balances food’s palatability with energy content.

his is not the first time a link between

The pathway we discovered is part of a conserved

artificial sweeteners and increased hunger has been

starvation response that actually makes nutritious

suggested, but this new research has identified the

food taste better when you are starving.”

brain system that regulates response to sweetness in both insects and mammals.

The second phase of the study was designed to determine if the neuronal pathways observed

The first phase of the research was conducted

in fruit flies are also relevant to mammals.

at the Charles Perkins Centre at the University of

Professor Herbert Herzog’s team at the Garvan

Sydney. Researchers laced the diet of fruit flies with

Institute of Medical Research exposed mice to

artificial sweetener and found that after prolonged

a sucralose-sweetened diet for seven days. The

exposure they consumed 30% more calories when

mice displayed remarkably similar results to the

their natural diet was reintroduced.

fruit flies, confirming the same neuronal pathway

The University of Sydney’s Associate Professor

was involved in regulating overall calorie intake.

Greg Neely stated: “We found that chronic

Professor Herzog said: “These findings further

consumption of this artificial sweetener actually

reinforce the idea that ‘sugar free’ varieties of

increases the sweet intensity of real nutritive

processed food and drink may not be as inert as

sugar, and this then increases the animal’s overall

we anticipated. Artificial sweeteners can actually

motivation to eat more food.”

change how animals perceive the sweetness of

The researchers determined that the brain’s

their food, with a discrepancy between sweetness

reward centre recalibrates the perceived ratio

and energy levels prompting an increase in caloric

of energy content to sweet sensation when the


sweetness to energy ratio is out of balance for prolonged periods. |

This research was published in the journal Cell Metabolism.

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