The desired results in diet drinks may be a false promise for some soda lovers, and it is true that they provide the flavor and taste of soft drinks without the calories, but new research shows that they can increase the feeling of hunger.
A study published in the “Jama Network Open” medical journal adds to the evidence that drinks made with sucralose may stimulate appetite, at least in some people, and the study provides some clues as to why.
“We found that females and people who were obese had greater equivalent brain activity” after consuming artificial sweeteners, says study author Katie Page, an obese physician at the University of Southern California.
Both groups had lower appetite suppressant hormones, and they ate more food after drinking drinks containing sucralose than after regular sugar-sweetened drinks. In contrast, the study found that males and people of a healthy weight did not have an increase in brain reward activity or the hunger response, indicating that they are not affected in the same way.
There is ongoing research into the complex ways artificial sweeteners may affect metabolism and weight, says Susan Swithers, a behavioral scientist at Purdue University, who was not involved in the new study but reviewed the results.
“These findings are consistent with patterns we’ve already seen in my lab in animal studies,” Swithers adds.
One hypothesis is that it is not the artificial sweetener itself that has a direct effect on the body, but rather the idea that artificial sweeteners may confuse the body by tricking it into thinking sugar is coming.