Effects of Non-nutritive Sweeteners on Sweet Taste Processing and Neuroendocrine Regulation of Eating Behavior

Curr Nutr Rep. 2020 Sep;9(3):278-289. doi: 10.1007/s13668-020-00323-3.


Purpose of review: Non-nutritive sweeteners (NNS) are increasingly used as a replacement for nutritive sugars as means to quench the desire for "sweets" while contributing few or no dietary calories. However, there is concern that NNS may uncouple the evolved relationship between sweet taste and post-ingestive neuroendocrine signaling. In this review, we examine the effects of NNS exposure on neural and peripheral systems in humans.

Recent findings: NNS exposure during early development may influence sweet taste preferences, and NNS consumption might increase motivation for sweet foods. Neuroimaging studies provide evidence that NNS elicit differential neuronal responsivity in areas related to reward and satiation, compared with caloric sweeteners. Findings are heterogenous regarding whether NNS affect physiological responses. Additional studies are warranted regarding the consequences of NNS on metabolic outcomes and neuroendocrine pathways. Given the widespread popularity of NNS, future studies are essential to establish their role in long-term health.

Keywords: Amygdala; Appetite; Artificial sweeteners; Brain; Feeding behavior; Food intake; GLP-1; Hormones; Hypothalamus; Incretins; Insula; Insulin; Low-calorie sweeteners; Neuroimaging; Non-nutritive sweeteners; Obesity; Reward; Satiety; Striatum; Sweet taste; Sweeteners; fMRI.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Eating / drug effects*
  • Energy Intake / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Satiation
  • Sweetening Agents / pharmacology*
  • Taste / drug effects*
  • Taste / physiology*


  • Sweetening Agents