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Radio Shows | Take Away the Sweet | mp3wmawav

We both have a weakness for chocolate chip cookies. But here's an interesting question: Would you still favor them over celery sticks if they were not sweet?

Probably not. they wouldn't taste as good.

Makes sense. Yet according to a new study, you'd still favor the flavorless cookie because of it has more calories.

It is an interesting study. What scientists did was first create mice that could not taste sweetness.

Then they placed two water bottles side by side - one a sugar solution and the other, plain water. During a five second trial, normal mice preferred the sugar solution while the mutated mice drank equal amounts of both.

However, things changed when they conducted a thirty minute trial. Given more time the mutated mice which could not taste sweetness somehow learned which bottle was the sugar solution.

They, like the normal mice, preferred the sugar water even after scientists switched the positions of the bottles. This suggests the mutated mice picked the sugar water because of its caloric content.

This became more clear when scientists replaced the sugar with Splenda, a low calorie sugar substitute. While normal mice preferred the sweet taste of Splenda, the mutated mice did not because the Splenda water did not have significantly more calories than plain water.

This research suggests people prefer sweets at least in part because of their caloric content.

One reason we prefer sweets is that sugar activates many of the same brain pathways as drugs of abuse. In both normal and mutated mice, sucrose increased dopamine in the brain - a neurotransmiter associated with improvement in mood.

This research may also explain why people drinking diet sodas are at increased risk of obesity. That's because sugar free foods or sodas don't fool our brains into thinking we ingested enough calories.

You may just end up eating more. This new finding may change our whole approach to dieting.

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For more information…

An article in the journal BMC Oral Health provides an excellent review about what we know about the human sweet tooth.
For more information…

A nice write-up about the research described in this episode is available. The original scientific publication by de Araujo, I. E. et al. Food reward in the absence of taste receptor signaling. Neuron 57, 930-941 (2008) is available.

News about the contributions that sugar substitutes contribute to weight gain can be read here.

For information about sugar substitutes, go to the US Food and Drug Administration website and there is a question and answer website about artificial sweeteners and cancer.


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