Artificial Sweeteners Don't Fool Your Brain
January 14, 2010
While artificial sweeteners may be able to confuse your taste buds, the suspicion is growing that your brain is not so easily fooled.
Several studies suggest your brain has a way of detecting calories while food is still in your mouth. For example, researchers made eight cyclists perform 60-minute workouts on a stationary bike while measuring their work rate.
During workouts on separate days they were told to rinse their mouth with a solution of either glucose or saccharin, without swallowing either one. The glucose mouth rinse improved the cyclists' performance by a small but consistent amount compared to saccharin.
Later, they were asked to rinse their mouths with either saccharin alone or saccharin plus a caloric (but non-sweet) sugar called maltodextrin. The cyclists did slightly better when they rinsed their mouths with maltodextrin, even though both solutions carried identical saccharin taste.
When scientists performed fMRI scans on the athletes, they found that the combination of saccharin and maltodextrin activated two reward-associated brain areas -- the striatum and anterior cingulate -- which saccharin alone failed to touch.