Sweet Gut

Spoon full of sugar with extra sugar spilling over


In your coffee — Sugar or Splenda?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Our bodies CRAVE sugar for energy. Artificial sweeteners and sugar activate our sweet-sensing taste buds. But substitutes like Splenda and Sweet n’ Low don’t fully satisfy us. Why is that?

Hwei-Ee Tan and colleagues from Columbia University wanted to find out.

They placed mice in cages with two water bottles. One contained sugar water, the other artificial sweetener water. The researchers counted how often mice licked each bottle.

Next, they injected mice with sugar solution and chemical markers. Under a microscope, the markers showed which brain cells the sugar solution lit up.

Results? At first, the mice licked BOTH bottles. But after forty-eight hours, mice wanted the REAL deal. Their brains showed that SUGAR had activated a brain-GUT connection!

Our gut tells our brain we want sugar, but ONLY the real stuff! Artificial sweeteners? They’re just for the taste buds. Researchers hope to create new substitutes that satisfy our tongues AND bodies.

All things being EQUAL – sorry, Splenda!

Reference: Tan, H.-E., Sisti, A. C., Jin, H., Vignovich, M., Villavicencio, M., Tsang, K. S., Goffer, Y., & Zuker, C. S. (2020). The gut–brain axis mediates sugar preference. Nature, 580(7804), 511–516. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-2199-7