Health updates: Artificial sweeteners and blood pressure

The following is new information regarding the effect of artificial sugar on the brain, and high-fructose corn syrup and blood pressure.

Artificial sweeteners do not fool your brain

While artificial sweeteners may be able to confuse your taste buds, suspicion is growing that your brain is not so easily fooled. Several studies suggest that your brain has a way of detecting calories while food is still in your mouth. For example, researchers had eight cyclists perform 60-minute workouts on stationary bikes while measuring their work rate.

During workouts on separate days, they were told to rinse their mouths with a solution of either glucose or saccharin, without swallowing either one. The glucose mouth rinse improved the cyclists’ performance by a small but consistent amount, compared to the saccharin. Later, they were asked to rinse their mouths with either saccharin alone or saccharin plus a caloric (but non-sweet) sugar called maltodextrin. The cyclists did slightly better when they rinsed their mouths with maltodextrin, even though both solutions carried an identical saccharin taste.

When scientists performed MRI scans on the athletes, they found that the combination of saccharin and maltodextrin activated two reward-associated brain areas — the striatum and anterior cingulate — which saccharin alone failed to touch.

Simple way to lower your blood pressure — just avoid fructose

A diet high in fructose, a form of sugar found in sweetened soft drinks and junk food, raises blood pressure in men. Two recent studies provided the first evidence that fructose helps raise blood pressure. One of the studies further suggested that people who consume junk foods and sweetened soft drinks at night could gain weight faster than those who do not.

Fructose accounts for about half the sugar molecules in table sugar and in high-fructose corn syrup, the sweetener used in many packaged foods.


Sources: New Scientist December 27, 2009, Reuters September 23, 2009; American Journal of Nephrology August 21, 2009; 30 (5): 399-404; Experimental Physiology June 1, 2009; 94: 648-658 and

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 29, Number 1, Feb/Mar 2010.

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