Gut-Brain Circuit That Isn’t Fooled by Artificial Sweeteners Could Explain Our Sugar Cravings

May 04, 2020 | Biotechnology

Reading time: 5-6 minutes

This week, Lab.Equipment has sourced a new Biotech article published from Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News (GEN):

Researchers at Columbia University have identified a specialized neural circuit that could help researchers develop new ways of curbing our cravings for sugar. The research, which was carried out in mice, found that in addition to the taste receptors that signal to the brain when sugar hits the tongue, there are additional receptors in the gut that respond specifically to sugar. Artificial sweeteners don’t activate this sugar-sensing gut-brain circuit, providing new insights into why sugar substitutes are never quite as satisfying as the real thing. The research also points to new potential strategies for reducing sugar overconsumption, either by targeting this signaling circuit directly, or by developing artificial sweeteners that do activate it.

“We need to separate the concepts of sweet and sugar,” said Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator Charles Zuker, PhD, a neuroscientist at Columbia University. “Sweet is liking, sugar is wanting. This new work reveals the neural basis for sugar preference … Uncovering this circuit helps explain how sugar directly impacts our brain to drive consumption. It also exposes new potential targets and opportunities for strategies to help curtail our insatiable appetite for sugar.”

Zucker and colleagues reported their findings in Nature, in a paper titled, “The gut-brain axis mediates sugar preference.” The studies build on decades of work by the Zuker lab to map the brain’s taste system.

The taste of sugar is one of the most basic sensory percepts for humans and other animals, the authors explained. “Sugar is a fundamental source of energy for all animals, and correspondingly, most species have evolved d... Read more at the GEN Blog.

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