The findings were published in the February issue of Behavioral Neuroscience.
Essentially, she said, it appears that the bodies of the rats are learning to not expect much in the way of calories from sweet foods. "The artificial sweetener provides the signal that not as many calories are going to come, and the animal responds by consuming more calories."
As for humans, she said, previous research has provided conflicting indications about whether obesity is a bigger problem among people who use artificial sweeteners.
According to her, launching a similar study among people would be difficult, because few have never encountered artificial sweeteners before. The next step, she said, is to do more research in rats.
Lyn Nabors, president of the Calorie Control Council trade group, lambasted the study, saying it has "no basis in science" and "no relation to the human experience whatsoever."
Artificial sweeteners can help people lose weight, she said. "The scientific community firmly believes that calories in, calories out is what makes a difference. The recommendation is that you reduce calories and exercise if you want to lose weight."
Learn about cancer and artificial sweeteners from the National Cancer Institute.
SOURCES: Susan Swithers, Ph.D., associate professor, psychological sciences, Ingestive Behavior Research Center, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind.; Lyn Nabors, president, Calorie Control C
All rights reserved