Carbonation -- an essential component of popular soft drinks, alters the brain's perception of sweetness and makes it difficult to determine the difference between sugar and artificial sweeteners.
Study author, Rosario Cuomo, associate professor, gastroenterology, department of clinical medicine and surgery, 'Federico II' University, Naples, Italy, said that this study proves that the right combination of carbonation and artificial sweeteners can leave the sweet taste of diet drinks indistinguishable from normal drinks.
She said that tricking the brain about the type of sweet could be advantageous to weight loss - it facilitates the consumption of low-calorie drinks because their taste is perceived as pleasant as the sugary, calorie-laden drink.
The study identifies, however, that there is a downside to this effect; the combination of carbonation and sugar may stimulate increased sugar and food consumption since the brain perceives less sugar intake and energy balance is impaired. This interpretation might better explain the prevalence of eating disorders, metabolic diseases and obesity among diet-soda drinkers.
Investigators used functional magnetic resonance imaging to monitor changes in regional brain activity in response to naturally or artificially sweetened carbonated beverages.
The study has been published in Gastroenterology.