Sweet Tooth? More Like Sweet Gut

If you’ve got a craving for candy or a sweet tooth that just won’t quit, you won’t be able to trick yourself with artificial sweeteners.

New research reveals something unexpected and interesting; your gut can tell the difference between real sugar and the fake stuff.

Researchers at the Duke University School of Medicine were able to identify cells in the guts of living mice and both look at their response to sugar and switch the cells off and on to see if mice would lose interest in sugar.

The findings:

  • The researchers identified cells called neuropod cells that line the upper part of the gut and have the ability to communicate directly with the brain.
  • These neuropod cells in the digestive tract are sensory cells that act similarly to taste buds in the tongue.
  • The neuropod cells were able to tell the difference between sugar and artificial sweeteners and sent signals to the brain using neurotransmitters to communicate “this is sugar” or “this is a sweetener.”
  • When the researchers turned the neuropod cells off in the mice, they appeared to lose their preference for sugar.

The takeaway: This fascinating study could give us clues as to why using artificial sweeteners in place of sugar doesn’t always curb cravings for sweets. The authors of the study are also looking to examine how these cells sense other macronutrients. They claim that this research could lead to a new approach to treat diseases by targeting and changing behaviors that appear to begin in the gut. Do you sometimes wish you could just turn that sweet tooth off? Maybe in the future, you can.


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