Do you find yourself adding three or four sugars to one small cup of coffee? Or drinking several sodas a day? Do you dessert every night … afternoon and evening? You may be a sugar addict and you’re not alone. Rising obesity rates, excessive sugar consumption, chronic stress and skyrocketing rates of type 2 diabetes. These health issues are forcing food and beverage manufacturers to either formulate and/or reformulate products with less sugar, and most likely a more natural-based sugar, or suffer the wrath of angry consumer activists.
However, research from the Corn Refiner’s Association (CRA) revealed consumers don’t necessarily practice what they preach when it comes to sweeteners. You can read more about its findings here, but nonetheless, beverages are moving toward a cleaner label.
Previous studies with rats suggest sugar consumption may activate a glucocorticoid-metabolic-brain-negative feedback pathway, which may turn off the stress response and thereby reinforce habitual sugar overconsumption.
A new parallel-arm, double-masked diet intervention study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism tested the researchers’ hypothesized glucocorticoid-metabolic-brain model in women consuming beverages sweetened with either aspartame of sucrose (published online April 16, 2015).
The study was conducted at the University of California, Davis, Clinical and Translational Science Center’s Clinical Research Center and the University of California, Davis, Medical Center Imaging Research Center. In it, 19 women, 18 to 40 years old, with a body mass index range of 20 to 34 kg/m2 who were a subgroup from a National Institutes of Health-funded investigation of 188 participants assigned to eight experimental groups.
The intervention consisted of sucrose- or aspartame-sweetened beverage consumption three times per day for two weeks. Salivary cortisol and regional brain responses to the Montreal Imaging Stress Task were measured. At the end of the two weeks, compared with aspartame, sucrose consumption was associated with significantly higher activity in the left hippocampus. Sucrose, but not aspartame, consumption associated with reduced stress-induced cortisol. The sucrose group also had a lower reactivity to naltrexone, significantly lower nausea, and a trend toward lower cortisol.
These experimental findings support a metabolic-brain-negative feedback pathway that is affected by sugar and may make some people under stress more hooked on sugar and possibly more vulnerable to obesity and its related conditions.