'Diet' Drinks Could Cause Increased Appetite in Women, People With Obesity, Study Finds

A new study revealed that some "diet" drinks could cause increased appetites among women and people with obesity, NPR reported Thursday.

Katie Page, the study author, told the radio organization that she found the results "surprising," and noted that body weight and biological sex were "very important factors in the way that the brain responded" to drinks that contained an artificial sweetener called sucralose.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, sucralose is an artificial sweetener found in a variety of products—most notably Splenda—and is made from real sugar.

"A chemical process tweaks its chemical structure, making it 600 times sweeter than sugar—and essentially calorie-free," said the clinic. It was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1998.

Of course, scientists have been wary of sucralose for decades, and Page and her team are some of the latest to study its effects.

The study was published last month in JAMA Network Open—an open-access medical journal published by the American Medical Association. Page and her team wanted to know: does a person's weight or sex impact the efficacy of sucralose? In other words, does sucralose help a person lose weight?

To complete their study, researchers asked participants to drink 300-mL of water, or a 300-mL drink that either contained sucrose or sucralose.

Participants arrived at each visit after completing a 12-hour fast, according to the study. "Blood was sampled at baseline and 10, 35, and 120 minutes after participants received a drink containing sucrose, sucralose, or water" to measure blood sugar and hormones linked to hunger."

Researchers also used MRI images of each participant to "document the activation of parts of the brain linked to appetite and cravings," said NPR.

Finally, participants were presented with a buffet meal at the end of the visit and researchers took note of how many calories each person consumed.

According to Page via NPR, "'females and people with obesity had greater brain reward activity' after consuming the artificial sweetener."

They also found that women consumed "greater total calories" after consuming drinks with sucralose, the study said.

By contrast, the artificial sweetener did not seem to impact the men's appetites nor their response to food cues.

When it comes to sucralose, registered dietician Kate Patton, RD, told the Cleveland Clinic that it's best to find other sugar alternatives.

"[I]nstead of replacing sugar with sucralose, it's a good idea to find other ways to cut back on sugar," she said.

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A new study revealed that some “diet” drinks could cause increased appetites among women and people with obesity. Study author Katie Page said that she found the results "surprising." champlifezy@gmail.com/iStock