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Soda Fizz Alters Brain's Perception of Sweetness

Update Date: Sep 17, 2013 11:45 AM EDT
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Soda bubbles alter the mind's perception of sweetness by making it difficult for the brain to tell the difference between sugar and artificial sweeteners, a new study suggests.

"This study proves that the right combination of carbonation and artificial sweeteners can leave the sweet taste of diet drinks indistinguishable from normal drinks," study author, Rosario Cuomo, associate professor, gastroenterology, department of clinical medicine and surgery, "Federico II" University, Naples, Italy, said in a news release. "Tricking the brain about the type of sweet could be advantageous to weight loss-it facilitates the consumption of low-calorie drinks because their taste is perceived as pleasant as the sugary, calorie-laden drink."

On the other hand, there could be a downside to this effect because the combination of carbonation and sugar might trigger increased sugar and food consumption. Researchers explain that the combination may impair the body's energy balance because the brain perceives less sugar intake. The interpretation might help explain the prevalence of eating disorders, metabolic diseases and obesity among diet-soda drinkers.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, researchers were able to track the changes in regional brain activity in response to naturally or artificially sweetened carbonated beverages.  Researchers said that findings were based on previous studies on gastric fullness and nutrient depletion conveyed to the brain.

Researchers said the next step is to conduct more studies on the carbonation effect of sweetness detection in taste buds and responses elicited by the carbonated sweetened beverages in the gastrointestinal cavity. Researchers said that future studies are needed to clarify the link between reduced calorie intake with diet drinks and increased incidence of obesity and metabolic diseases.

The findings are published in the journal Gastroenterology.

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