The Artificial Sweetener Sucralose May Increase Food Cravings


A recently published randomized controlled crossover trial found that the artificial sweetener sucralose may increase food cravings and appetite. The study, which included 74 healthy young adults, used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) tests to observe the unconscious brain reactions to plain water vs. water flavored with either sucrose (table sugar) or the high intensity sweetener sucralose. Researchers also conducted blood tests to document changes in levels of glucose, insulin, and hormones related to hunger and measured total calories consumed during a buffet meal served after the drinks were consumed.

Women and people with obesity (but not men without obesity) showed increased brain activity in regions involved in appetite and food cravings after drinking the sucralose-sweetened vs. sugar-sweetened beverage. Levels of hormones that signal fullness fell after consuming the sucralose-containing drinks. Women, but not men, also ate more after drinking the artificially sweetened drink.

Studies looking at the impact of artificially sweetened (“diet”) beverages on weight have had inconsistent results. Although this is just one study, it suggests different people may have different neural and metabolic reactions to sweeteners in these beverages.


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