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Does the Taste of Sweet make you fat?

by (1074)
Updated November 27, 2014 at 4:09 AM
Created March 31, 2013 at 11:46 PM

There's been some research lately showing neuronal control of body weight can change (predispose to weight gain, insulin/leptin resistance etc) simply due to sweet taste itself, insulin triggering or not. Anyone who struggles with weight already knows to avoid sugar, but lately lots of studies are also coming out of the woodwork stating that Diet Sodas are strongly associated with diabetes/obesity clinically.

I personally notice weight gain immed if I eat sweetened foods or even drink diet sodas/red bulls. I believe the taste of sweetness is a pivotal player in obesity, and perhaps is an evolutionary environmental signal to fatten up for incoming winter.

What do you guys think? Share your experiences!

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17412 · April 03, 2013 at 10:52 AM

If you are the n=1 in question, it's unquestionable whether or not it affects you. Test it for yourself, then you know for sure if it's true or not. But hey, if you've got the money to pay for a study, by all means cough it up and set up a study and write a paper.

A2c38be4c54c91a15071f82f14cac0b3
12702 · April 02, 2013 at 10:45 PM

That's all sidestepping the point. You said sweet tastes stimulate insulin. Cool. Where's the evidence of that? N=1's are pretty weak.

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84
17412 · April 02, 2013 at 10:45 AM

Aspertame breaks down into formaldahyde and there's lots of talk about it being a carcinogen and causing all sorts of issues such as nerve and brain damage. Not something I'd like to play with. If you want to test any sweetener's insulin response, wake up, eat nothing, test your blood sugar level with a glucometer. Taste a large dose of a sweetener, wait a few minutes, test your blood sugar level again, if it dropped from your first reading, you just had an insulin response to it. Not everyone does.

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84
17412 · April 02, 2013 at 10:42 AM

Yes, but fructose is different. It's true it causes no insulin rise, however only your liver can dispose of it, and it's treated like a poison, sharing the same metabolic processes in the liver for disposal as those for alcohol. Diabetics who play this game with things like agave nectar or HFCS are further damaging their already fragile health for a sweet hit. Me, I'd rather drink tequila than use agave - at least you can get drunk off it.

A2c38be4c54c91a15071f82f14cac0b3
12702 · April 01, 2013 at 7:51 PM

Fructose is sweeter than glucose, but causes a much lower insulin response. And I have seen several studies finding no increase in insulin from the sweetener aspartame.

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37187 · April 01, 2013 at 4:07 PM

lol, raydawg I eat a whole grapefruit most days of my life. I even ate them during my SAD years. Doctors have been shaking their heads my whole life about how healthy I was despite my weight, so I don't think they've hurt me any. I'm not worried about the caffeine either, as it takes me a couple hours to sip a 1.5 cup mug. Some days I have 1 mug, some days 2, but I can skip without withdrawal symptoms so I think I'm within my personal threshold.

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2949 · April 01, 2013 at 12:47 PM

Stop voting up this common misbelief: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/artificial-sweeteners-insulin/

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17412 · April 01, 2013 at 10:37 AM

Off the top of my head, there are some obese mice in studies, that died obese when starved rather than lose the fat. It's not as simple as a surplus or deficit. Fat is an organ, and like others, it will do what it can to sustain its survival. Fat storage is triggered by the action of insulin. Insulin is triggered by the taste of sweet, or high blood sugar. You don't see too much of this until muscles become insulin resistant, or if you don't have enough muscle to clean up the excess.

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17412 · April 01, 2013 at 10:31 AM

As a side note, grapefruits contain naringenin, which tends to slow down Phase I detox pathway in the liver, such as the one that removes caffeine. Might be worth examining before consuming a two bag of grapefruits. This is why it's a good idea to vary our diets daily, so we don't hit the same detox pathway all the time, and allow it to replenish its enzymes and catalysts.

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17412 · April 01, 2013 at 10:24 AM

Nance, there are links between tasting sweet and insulin being triggered. Unless you've tested your insulin before cutting them, after cutting them, and after eating them, you wouldn't have noticed anything but the aroma, flavor, anticipation, and reward. Yes, it is possible to lose fat, even though you get a bit of insulin from fruit.

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5808 · April 01, 2013 at 12:11 AM

I've read about this, as well. Very interesting hypothesis.

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6 Answers

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529 · April 01, 2013 at 12:44 AM

The issue, as I understand it, is that a non caloric sweetener can trigger an insulin response even though your blood glucose has not been raised. (You can get this process started by just thinking about food.) This would lower your BG below baseline, thus increasing appetite.

9f54852ea376e8e416356f547611e052
2949 · April 01, 2013 at 12:47 PM

Stop voting up this common misbelief: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/artificial-sweeteners-insulin/

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45 · April 01, 2013 at 12:20 AM

Even though the research about this is interesting to say the least, I haven't found any solid evidence that the human body can store fat without being in a caloric surplus. Where is the fat coming from at that point? The energy that you're storing (body fat) has to come from somewhere.

I think what's going on here is more correlation than anything else. It makes sense that your average person who regularly eats/drinks sweet food probably eats too much to begin with. Most of the research I've found related to this was based on poorly conducted studies where calorie consumption wasn't measured; merely if the person was obese and/or consumed sweet drinks regularly.

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84
17412 · April 01, 2013 at 10:37 AM

Off the top of my head, there are some obese mice in studies, that died obese when starved rather than lose the fat. It's not as simple as a surplus or deficit. Fat is an organ, and like others, it will do what it can to sustain its survival. Fat storage is triggered by the action of insulin. Insulin is triggered by the taste of sweet, or high blood sugar. You don't see too much of this until muscles become insulin resistant, or if you don't have enough muscle to clean up the excess.

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693 · April 01, 2013 at 12:31 PM

Cats can't taste sweet, but you can still have a fat cat.

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37187 · April 01, 2013 at 12:18 AM

"simply due to sweet taste itself" is where you lose me.

In the past month, I've eaten my way through 2 bags of grapefruit so sweet they were sweeter than oranges I bought earlier. Each day I drooled while cutting them and raved afterward that it was like eating dessert. They actually tasted sweeter to me than some chocolate-covered fruit pieces a friend gave me. They tasted much sweeter than my coffee with cream and honey.

I lost a noticeable amount of fat during that time.

I think it's plausible that sweet-eners might be related to weight gain, but perception of sweet varies between individuals and I don't believe "sweet taste" triggers gain by itself.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247
37187 · April 01, 2013 at 4:07 PM

lol, raydawg I eat a whole grapefruit most days of my life. I even ate them during my SAD years. Doctors have been shaking their heads my whole life about how healthy I was despite my weight, so I don't think they've hurt me any. I'm not worried about the caffeine either, as it takes me a couple hours to sip a 1.5 cup mug. Some days I have 1 mug, some days 2, but I can skip without withdrawal symptoms so I think I'm within my personal threshold.

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84
17412 · April 01, 2013 at 10:31 AM

As a side note, grapefruits contain naringenin, which tends to slow down Phase I detox pathway in the liver, such as the one that removes caffeine. Might be worth examining before consuming a two bag of grapefruits. This is why it's a good idea to vary our diets daily, so we don't hit the same detox pathway all the time, and allow it to replenish its enzymes and catalysts.

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84
17412 · April 01, 2013 at 10:24 AM

Nance, there are links between tasting sweet and insulin being triggered. Unless you've tested your insulin before cutting them, after cutting them, and after eating them, you wouldn't have noticed anything but the aroma, flavor, anticipation, and reward. Yes, it is possible to lose fat, even though you get a bit of insulin from fruit.

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1523 · April 01, 2013 at 3:43 AM

With no associated increase in calories or an energy surplus I'm skeptical. I got down to 10% chugging diet soda on the regular. I'm not saying it was healthy, but it certainly didn't keep me fat. Now if you're talking about people who consume diet soda probably not having a great diet and generally being more overweight I might buy it. The insulin response thing doesn't make sense to me though, I'd want to test my blood in a fasted state and then after consuming something sweet to know for sure. I wouldn't really trust anything else.

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17412 · April 01, 2013 at 11:20 AM

If you're metabolically fit and go on a high carb bender, your body can deal with it easily. If you turn that one insult into a chronic daily marathon of candy and soda, you'll eventually get to the point where there's no more capacity to dispose of the excess.

First, it mostly gets soaked up by muscle tissue, and you'll burn it off via activity. If you're not very muscular, fat cells will receive the same insulin signal and convert glucose to fat and store it.

As cells fill up to their maximum, they no longer express the GLUT receptor for insulin and thus become resistant. In order to be able to handle the onslaught, your pancreas produces more and more insulin, producing stress on itself to the eventual future point where the beta cells are depleted and begin to die off, going from type 2 diabetes to a form of type 1.

At that point your blood has far more glucose than is safe and no way to dispose of it. So your kidneys sacrifice themselves in an effort to dump glucose in urine, causing kidney damage in the process, and symptoms of thirst. Eyes, nerves, arteries, and other tissue are damaged by glycation leading to complications such as diabetic retinopathy, and even amputations. Fun times!

When people worry just about the taste of something triggering insulin, it's not because they are super healthy, fit, and have a big engine capable of dealing with high blood sugar.

It's because they either want to avoid further insulin reactions when possible, or they are doing intermittent or other forms of fasting and aren't quite ready to give up the taste of sweet, and are wondering if their morning coffee can be sweetened. I find that if you try to use non caloric sweeteners, even stevia, in coffee, the insulin release just from the taste is enough to cause an insulin release, which causes blood sugar to drop. Since they're fasting, their blood sugar is already low, and this causes hypoglycemia, which leads to instant weakness and hunger.

tl;dr: That's the real question here, perhaps not for everyone. So, no, the taste itself won't make you fat, but it will trigger your insulin to a smaller degree, which will cause whatever macros are in your blood to be stored in both fat and muscle (as well as liver).

On the other hand, you could eat a ton of savory rice every day and not experience the taste of sweet, and still get fat due to the carb load and the action of insulin storing it.

A2c38be4c54c91a15071f82f14cac0b3
12702 · April 01, 2013 at 7:51 PM

Fructose is sweeter than glucose, but causes a much lower insulin response. And I have seen several studies finding no increase in insulin from the sweetener aspartame.

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84
17412 · April 02, 2013 at 10:42 AM

Yes, but fructose is different. It's true it causes no insulin rise, however only your liver can dispose of it, and it's treated like a poison, sharing the same metabolic processes in the liver for disposal as those for alcohol. Diabetics who play this game with things like agave nectar or HFCS are further damaging their already fragile health for a sweet hit. Me, I'd rather drink tequila than use agave - at least you can get drunk off it.

A2c38be4c54c91a15071f82f14cac0b3
12702 · April 02, 2013 at 10:45 PM

That's all sidestepping the point. You said sweet tastes stimulate insulin. Cool. Where's the evidence of that? N=1's are pretty weak.

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84
17412 · April 02, 2013 at 10:45 AM

Aspertame breaks down into formaldahyde and there's lots of talk about it being a carcinogen and causing all sorts of issues such as nerve and brain damage. Not something I'd like to play with. If you want to test any sweetener's insulin response, wake up, eat nothing, test your blood sugar level with a glucometer. Taste a large dose of a sweetener, wait a few minutes, test your blood sugar level again, if it dropped from your first reading, you just had an insulin response to it. Not everyone does.

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84
17412 · April 03, 2013 at 10:52 AM

If you are the n=1 in question, it's unquestionable whether or not it affects you. Test it for yourself, then you know for sure if it's true or not. But hey, if you've got the money to pay for a study, by all means cough it up and set up a study and write a paper.

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