Taste Cues May Be Distorted By Diet Foods


By: Linda von Wartburg

Researchers from Alberta have found that when they fed baby rats diet foods and drinks, the little rats’ ability to assess how much energy is in foods was thrown out of whack.

The baby rats apparently learned, based upon their early conditioning with diet foods, that really sweet food doesn’t have all that many calories.

In their later life, then, they overate genuine high-calorie sweet foods under the faulty impression that they were low in calories.

During the study, published in Obesity, four-week old rats were conditioned over sixteen days to associate certain sweet or salty flavors with low calorie food. When they were subsequently fed a high calorie food with the same flavors, they ate a ton more than they really needed. Adolescent rats, who’d previously learned to accurately assess the calorie content of food based upon taste, didn’t overeat even after going through the same sixteen day conditioning.

The researchers extrapolated their findings to youngsters of the human variety, theorizing that feeding young children diet food or drinks distorts their future ability to correctly assess the energy content of foods based upon taste cues such as sweetness. Dr. David Pierce, the lead researcher, told another source, “The use of diet food and drinks from an early age into adulthood may induce overeating and gradual weight gain through the taste conditioning process that we have described.”

He believes that his theory may explain the recent paradoxical finding of an association between diet soda consumption and a higher risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

The moral of the story: Feed your young ones healthy foods so that their body can learn that sad truth: what tastes sweet has a lot of calories.

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Source: The Canadian Press



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