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Dietary sugars and non-caloric sweeteners elicit different homeostatic and hedonic responses in the brain

12 / 06 / 19

Finding: Glucose elicits the greatest brain response, followed by sucrose then fructose. Sucralose elicited a similar response to water.

Summary: Food and beverage intake is regulated by the interplay in the brain between the hypothalamus for the purpose of energy homeostasis (homeostatic response), and reward perception in the ventral tegmental area (VTA: hedonic response).

This study examined the differences in response in both brain areas to different sugars and a non-caloric sweetener. Functional MRI scanning was used to measure brain responses to the ingestion of glucose, fructose, sucrose and sucralose compared to a tap water control in 16 healthy men.

Compared with the control, a decreased VTA (hedonic) response was found with glucose, and a lesser but delayed response for sucrose and fructose. Sucralose lead to an increase in VTA, similar to water. Sucralose also led to a smaller and transient response from the hypothalamus.

The authors concluded that glucose induces a deactivation in hypothalamus, correlated with satiety signalling. Sucrose and fructose have a delayed and lesser response, likely because they need to be metabolised first. The similar responses of sucralose and water indicate non-caloric sweeteners may not have the same satiating effect as natural sugars.

Citation: Van Opstal AM, Kaal L, van den Berg-Huysmans AA, Hoeksma M et al. Dietary sugars and non-caloric sweeteners elicit different homeostatic and hedonic responses in the brain. Nutrition 2019;60:80-86