Recent results from both human epidemiological and experimental studies with animals suggest that intake of noncaloric sweeteners may promote, rather than protect against, weight gain and other disturbances of energy regulation. However, without a viable mechanism to explain how consumption of noncaloric sweeteners can increase energy intake and body weight, the persuasiveness of such results has been limited. Using a rat model, the present research showed that intake of noncaloric sweeteners reduces the effectiveness of learned associations between sweet tastes and postingestive caloric outcomes (Experiment 1) and that interfering with this association may impair the ability of rats to regulate their intake of sweet, but not nonsweet, high-fat and high-calorie food (Experiment 2). The results support the hypothesis that consuming noncaloric sweeteners may promote excessive intake and body weight gain by weakening a predictive relationship between sweet taste and the caloric consequences of eating.
© 2011 The Experimental Psychology Society