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Effects of Diet Soda on the Brain

Diet coke with iceReading the International Spine and Pain Institute’s January 2013 newsletter, I recently came across the article cited at the bottom of the page. This article looks at the effects of diet soda on the brain. We have known for a while that diet sodas affect your endocrine system altering your blood glucose, food consumption, and weight. This study is interesting because it looks at the effects of diet soda on the brain and how these changes may be affecting our behaviors including the act of drinking diet soda itself.

This study found that diet sodas may not help you lose weight, but in fact they and other artificial sweeteners may wreck your diet by rewiring your brain’s reward centers. This is important because it shows a correlation with a lifestyle choice altering your brain. This study may link how diet soda changes your brain and leads to obesity.

This University of San Diego study looked at young adults that drank diet soda and young adults that do not. The results found that the group that consumed diet sodas had reduced caudate head activation. The caudate head is part of the brain involved with signaling reward and controlling food intake. The decreased activity in the brains of diet soda drinkers suggests that artificial sweeteners confuse the reward signals.

Researches hypothesized that the consumption of diet soda confuses the reward loops of the caudate head; because sweetness was no longer a reliable factor of incoming calories, the brain had trained itself to respond less when you eat sweet flavors. Unreliable sweet tastes threw off predictions about calories and the energy available in the changed brains of diet soda drinkers, making it more likely that you will consume additional calories later in the day.

This investigation provides some interesting insight into how choices and actions we make can influence the way your brain works.

Brain and drinks Diet Sodas: Changing Your Brain And Your Waistline
Green E, Murphy C. Altered processing of sweet taste in the brain of diet soda drinkers. Physiol Behav. 2012;107(4):560-567.

Jamie Bovay, DPT, CSCS