Sweet’N Fat

Restaurants might want to stock copies of the current Behavioral Neuroscience next to the multicolored sugar tray: In a new study, scientists at Purdue found that rats fed with saccharin-sweetened yogurt [note: Link leads to a pdf file] gained more weight than rats fed yogurt with sugar. The rats were given the respective yogurt and then their regular food. After five weeks, the ones on the saccharin diet had gained about 20 percent more weight. As the Los Angeles Times writes, a possible explanation for the results is that faux-sugar sweeteners can kick off biological or behavioral changes that lead saccharin-guzzlers to eat more over time. The latter Time article explains the concept concisely:

[L]ike Pavlov’s dog, trained to salivate at the sound of a bell, animals are similarly trained to anticipate lots of calories when they taste something sweet—in nature, sweet foods are usually loaded with calories. When an animal eats a saccharin-flavored food with no calories, however—disrupting the sweetness and calorie link—the animal tends to eat more and gain more weight, the new study shows.

Saccharin is what’s in Sweet’N Low, of course, and it has zero calories, which is why the industry group representing it—and arguing that the study’s worthless—is called the Calorie Control Council. A person who’s presumably delighted about the study is Michael Pollan: His In Defense of Food is basically a book-length warning about the dangers of eating according to such nutritional dictates.

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