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Sensing Calories

April 22, 2008

Our brains may get pleasure from high-calorie foods that has nothing to do with taste.


The brain’s appetite for calories. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Artificial sweeteners may fool your taste buds, but not your brain. This according to a recent study by Duke University Medical Center and the University of Porto in Portugal. It involved genetically engineered mice that couldn’t taste sweetness. Duke neurobiologist Ivan de Araujo says that these mice showed no interest in artificially sweetened water. But sugar water was a different story.

IVAN DE ARAUJO (Duke University):
Over the course of a couple days, they developed this robust preference for the drink that contained sucrose, even if there was no taste or flavor associated with it.

The sugar water also lit up their brains’ reward centers, just as a sweet flavor would if they could taste it. He says that if our brains also respond to pure calorie content, it may explain why people who use diet products sometimes overeat to compensate. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the science society.