Carbonation alters the brain’s perception of sweetness

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 14th October 2013

Carbonation, an essential component of popular soft drinks, alters the way the brain perceives sweetness and makes it difficult for the brain to determine the difference between sugar and artificial sweeteners, according to a new study published in Gastroenterology.

While this could facilitate the consumption of low-calorie drinks, researchers said there could be a downside to this effect. The study, published on 17 September 2013, showed that the combination of carbonation and sugar may stimulate increased sugar and food consumption since the brain perceives less sugar intake and energy balance is impaired.

“This study proves that the right combination of carbonation and artificial sweeteners can leave the sweet taste of diet drinks indistinguishable from normal drinks,” said Rosario Cuomo, study author and Associate Professor, Gastroenterology, Department of Clinical Medicine and Surgery Federico 2 University in Naples, Italy.

Researchers said this interpretation might explain the prevalence of eating disorders, metabolic diseases and obesity among diet-soft drink consumers.

Study method

Researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging to monitor changes in regional brain activity in response to naturally or artificially sweetened carbonated beverages. They integrated these findings with information on gastric fullness and nutrient depletion conveyed to the brain.

According to researchers, future studies combining analysis of carbonation effect on sweetness detection in taste buds and responses elicited by the carbonated sweetened beverages in the gastrointestinal cavity would be required to further clarify the puzzling link between reduced calorie intake with diet drinks and increased incidence of obesity and metabolic diseases.

Australian Food News reported earlier in October 2013 that another study had found that the brain is not fooled by artificial sweeteners, and their consumption may lead to later increased consumption of sugar.

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