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Sucralose Increases Appetite and Cravings

Some diet drinks may lead to food cravings.

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Sucralose and appetite

A study involving 74 participants in JAMA Network Open found that women and people with obesity experienced an increase in appetite and food cravings after drinking 300 milliliters of a drink containing sucralose, compared with those who drank the same amount of water or a beverage with real sugar (sucrose).

In the 2 hours that followed drink consumption, MRIs showed how brain regions involved in appetite and food cravings reacted when participants were shown pictures of tempting foods like a burger and donut. There was increased activity in those brain areas after women and people with obesity had drinks containing sucralose. The findings from the University of Southern California also showed that drinking sucralose-containing beverages decreased blood levels of hormones related to satiety and that women, but not male participants, who drank sucralose-containing beverages tended to eat more at the snack buffet than men.

The study authors believe these results provide some context for the mixed results from previous studies when it comes to the neural, behavioral and weight loss effects of artificial sweeteners. For females and those with obesity, drinking artificially sweetened drinks may trick the brain into feeling hungry—the brain may sense that the body did not get the sugar calories it expected from the sweet drink. This, in turn, may result in people consuming more—not fewer—calories throughout the day. But perhaps men and people of lower body weight are less responsive for yet-to-be-determined reasons. It’s worth studying if these same results would occur with other low- or no-caloric sweeteners or when sweeteners are added to solid foods.

See also: Delicious Danger? A Research Update on Artificial Sweeteners

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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