Thursday, December 10, 2009

JAMA takes harsh position on artificial sweeteners

Dr. David Ludwig, an obesity researcher at Children’s Hospital Boston, wrote commentary in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association, recapping the evidence that consumption of artificial sweeteners breaks the physiological link between hunger and satiety. Studies have found that people who consumed more diet beverages were more likely to be overweight or obese and had an increased risk of developing metabolic syndrome and Type 2 diabetes. Of course, it’s hard to say whether the diet soda was to blame, or whether people who were overweight and trying to shed pounds turned to diet soda. Data from rats were not encouraging. A study published last year found that rats fed saccharin-sweetened yogurt gained 20% more weight than rats that ate yogurt made with glucose. It also found that the saccharin-eating rats experienced a smaller increase in body temperature after their meals, indicating that their bodies were less revved up to burn off extra calories.

Brain scans of people have found that real and fake sweeteners both activate the amygdale, which registers sensory pleasure. But only consumption of real sugar lighted up another part of the brain called the caudate. Scientists aren’t sure why, but they see it as a sign that the unconscious brain can tell the difference between sugared and diet drink.

In his essay, Ludwig concludes that more studies are needed, especially long-term clinical trials that make head-to-head comparisons of sugared drinks, diet drinks and unsweetened drinks. In the meantime, he advises people to think of artificially sweetened beverages as a temporary crutch to help make the transition to drinking “minimally sweetened beverages like water, mineral waters, teas, and coffee."

Bonnie - huge! Music to my ears!

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