Linda Bartoshuk, a psychologist and professor at the University of Florida who studies taste and obesity and Susan Swithers and Terry Davidson, psychologists at Purdue, have talked about the link between taste and weight. Swithers and Davidson have conducted animal studies on artificial sweeteners and guess what. That saccharine trickery may not be working. They postulate that when we drink diet sodas, our brain gets the signal of “sweet” but our bodies don’t get the glucose. They believe that the brain uses taste as an index of the calories to come, which we then need to burn. When the actual calories don’t follow the taste, what may happen is eating more or burning less energy.
In their studies, the rats that ate saccharine-sweetened food gained more weight. When our brains get the sweet signal it maintains our sugar cravings and throws off our brain and body’s ability to manage our energy demands. Artificial sweeteners are like methadone is to heroin -- meant to get us off of sugar without the caloric effects -- but the original problem of craving “sweet” remains and we continue to struggle with the craving. Watch your patterns with artificial sweeteners and see if you kick it up at certain times, because it may be setting you up for even bigger sugar transgressions at other times in the day and for weight gain down the road.