The influence of artificial sweeteners on the brain and ultimately metabolism has been hotly debated in recent years. Some studies have found adverse effects on blood sugar and insulin levels, while others have not. In a study publishing March 3 in the journal Cell Metabolism, researchers say the discrepancies in these studies may be due to how the sweeteners are consumed–or, more specifically, what they are consumed with.
Investigators report that the artificial sweetener sucralose seems to have no negative impact on its own, but when it is consumed with a carbohydrate, it induces deleterious changes in insulin sensitivity and decreases the brain’s response to sweet taste as measured by fMRI.
“When we set out to do this study, the question that was driving us was whether or not repeated consumption of an artificial sweetener would lead to a degrading of the predictive ability of sweet taste,” says senior author Dana Small, a neuroscientist who is a professor of psychiatry and the director of the Modern Diet and Physiology Research Center at Yale University. “This would be important because sweet-taste perception might lose the ability to regulate metabolic responses that prepare the body for metabolizing glucose or carbohydrates in general.”