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  • Adriano dos Santos

Do you know the difference between sugar and sweetness?

Do you know that there is the difference between sugar and sweetness? 

A new paper published in the journal Nature has shown that the gut-to-brain activity of sweetness is specific to sugar molecules, but not artificial sweeteners. Stating that "Sweet is liking, sugar is wanting”, because sugar affects the brain in ways that artificial sweeteners do not.  

Recent study by Charles Zucker questioned whether sugar and artificial sweeteners trigger the same taste-sensing mechanism by testing the difference between sugar and the artificial sweetener Acesulfame K. Using mouse models Zucker and his team offered sugar water and water with sweetener. Interestingly, at first the mice had no preference, but after two days they switched to drinking the sugar water exclusively. 

To analyze why the mice had a preference for the sugar water, Zucker and his team analyzed their brain activity. They discovered the brain region that lights up when the mice consumed the sugar water. It was the the caudal nucleus of the solitary tract (cNST), which is located in the brain stem. And separate from the taste-sensing mechanisms. 

Zucker and his team traced the glucose-sensing pathway back to the gut and then through the vagus nerve up to the brain. This pathway prefers glucose, while ignoring artificial sweeteners and fructose. This pathway could have developed because glucose is a source of fuel for all life forms.  

Zucker and his team are now looking at other systems and how they relate to the gut-to-brain sugar sensing pathway. He wants to identify ways to “help curtail our insatiable appetite for sugar."  

Reference: A New Study Exposes the Mechanism Behind Sugar Cravings 

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