Have you ever known someone who routinely orders a diet Coke with a piece of cake or pie for dessert? There's a reason for that seeming contradiction: They're familiar with the craving for sugar that they experience when they have something that's artificially sweetened. And now we know the reason. A new study conducted at Yale University School of Medicine has revealed that low-calorie, artificially sweetened beverages and foods don't trick your brain into thinking you're benefiting from the real food, reported the UK Express on September 23.
As a result, when you're hungry or tired, you might end up eating more food if you initially try to satisfy your desire for calories with a diet food or beverage.
"The consumption of high-calorie beverages is a major contributor to weight gain and obesity, even after the introduction of artificial sweeteners to the market," said Professor Ivan de Araujo, who led the study. "We believe that the discovery is important because it shows how physiological states may impact on our choices between sugars and sweeteners."
How it works: When you consume zero-calorie sweeteners, your brain isn't fooled. The reason: Your body's pleasure centers require energy sources in order to experience delight at sweet treats. So all the diet Coke and low-calorie chocolate spread in the world won't fill you up. Instead, the calories in those foods will be combined with the sweet foods that you'll eventually eat to satisfy your cravings. Result: Woeful weight gain.
Thanks to the mice evaluated in the study, Yale researchers say that they now have identified a specific brain signal that plays a key role in determining choice between sugars and sweeteners.This signal controls dopamine levels, which stimulates our reward centers in our brains. However: This reward signal occurs only when sugar is broken down into a form where it is usable as fuel for cells of the body to function.
“According to the data, when we apply substances that interfere with a critical step of the ‘sugar-to-energy pathway’, the interest of the animals in consuming artificial sweetener decreases significantly, along with reductions in brain dopamine levels. This is verified by the fact that when hungry mice are given a choice between artificial sweeteners and sugars, they are more likely to completely switch their preferences towards sugars even if the artificial sweetener is much sweeter than the sugar solution," explained Professor Araujo.
Learn more about dopamine and dieting by clicking here to read about Dr. Mehmet Oz's dopamine diet.