Previous work from our lab has demonstrated that experience with high-intensity sweeteners in rats leads to increased food intake, body weight gain and adiposity, along with diminished caloric compensation and decreased thermic effect of food. These changes may occur as a result of interfering with learned relations between the sweet taste of food and the caloric or nutritive consequences of consuming those foods. The present experiments determined whether experience with the high-intensity sweetener saccharin versus the caloric sweetener glucose affected blood glucose homeostasis. The results demonstrated that during oral glucose tolerance tests, blood glucose levels were more elevated in animals that had previously consumed the saccharin-sweetened supplements. In contrast, during glucose tolerance tests when a glucose solution was delivered directly into the stomach, no differences in blood glucose levels between the groups were observed. Differences in oral glucose tolerance responses were not accompanied by differences in insulin release; insulin release was similar in animals previously exposed to saccharin and those previously exposed to glucose. However, release of GLP-1 in response to an oral glucose tolerance test, but not to glucose tolerance tests delivered by gavage, was significantly lower in saccharin-exposed animals compared to glucose-exposed animals. Differences in both blood glucose and GLP-1 release in saccharin animals were rapid and transient, and suggest that one mechanism by which exposure to high-intensity sweeteners that interfere with a predictive relation between sweet tastes and calories may impair energy balance is by suppressing GLP-1 release, which could alter glucose homeostasis and reduce satiety.
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