Can't tell the difference between diet and regular soda? Scientists have pinpointed one reason: Carbonation alters the brain's perception of sweetness and makes it difficult to distinguish between natural sugar and artificial sweeteners.
In a new study published in Gastroenterology
, the journal of the American Gastroenterological Association, Italian researchers who used functional magnetic resonance imaging to monitor changes in brain activity in response to naturally or artificially sweetened carbonated beverages found the brain responded to both in virtually the same way.
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The investigators noted the combination of carbonation and sweeteners may stimulate increased sugar and food consumption since the brain perceives less sugar intake. This response may at least partly explain the prevalence of eating disorders, metabolic diseases, and obesity among diet-soda drinkers, the researchers concluded.
"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 researcher Rosario Cuomo, associate professor of gastroenterology at the University of Naples Federico II.
"Tricking the brain about the type of sweet could be advantageous to weight loss — it facilitates the consumption of low-calorie drinks because their taste is perceived as pleasant as the sugary, calorie-laden drink."
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