If you’re trying to commit to a healthier lifestyle, cutting out sugar is a great first step. High consumption of added sugar is associated with weight gain, obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. By contrast, eating less sugar has been linked to weight loss in low-calorie diets. But if you have a sweet tooth, we have some good news: Cutting out all sugar may not be the perfect solution.
A recent study published in the journal Nutrients suggests that adding a little sugar to your morning tea or cup of coffee may help you curb your appetite. For the study, researchers from the University of Vienna and the Technical University of Munich wanted to know whether drinking a beverage that tasted sweet could reduce a person’s food intake. They also predicted that suppressing the taste of sugar in a drink would cause a person to eat more.
Background on the Science
In order to understand the experiment, it’s important to understand the three main types of sugar: sucrose, fructose, and glucose. Sucrose is a complex sugar made up of glucose and fructose. It is found naturally in plants and gets refined to become table sugar. Glucose is the simplest form of sugar and is very easy to digest. It also makes up many simple carbohydrates, such as white bread or white rice. Fructose is a “fruit sugar” found in fruits, honey, and agave syrup. It is slightly harder to digest than glucose.
The scientists reporting in Nutrients decided to test just sucrose and glucose, because these forms of sugar can easily be suppressed by a sweetness inhibitor. The inhibitor they chose was lactisole, which is a complex form of salt that makes it very hard to taste sugar when added to a sweet drink. Lactisole works by binding to sweet receptors on the tongue.
Now, a few studies have already hypothesized that the sugar sucrose can increase satiety not because of the calories it provides, but because of the way it binds to taste receptors.
The Nutrients study took this concept one step further by testing the effects of both sucrose and glucose on appetite. They found that while both sugars cause the body to release appetite-suppressing hormones, only the participants who consumed sucrose beverages ate less. In other words, regular sugar was the most successful at suppressing appetite.
The data also revealed that lactisole, the sugar inhibitor, prevents the body from releasing those appetite-suppressing hormones because it binds to sweet receptors. This in turn caused study participants who were given lactisole to eat more.
Findings from the Sugar Study
To conduct the experiment, researchers recruited 27 healthy volunteers between 18 and 45 years old. Each participant fasted for 12 hours and then received one of four drinks: water with glucose, water with glucose and lactisole, water with sucrose, or water with sucrose and lactisole. In effect, two groups of volunteers drank simple solutions of sugar and water, while two other groups drank sugar, water, and the sugar suppressant.
Two hours after consuming the beverages, the volunteers were asked to rate their hunger levels. They were then given meals and told to eat until they felt satisfied.
Over the entire course of the study, researchers took blood samples to measure hormones. They also measured body temperature readings, which can reflect an increase in one’s metabolic rate caused by digestion.
The data from the experiment showed that the volunteers’ hunger before and after consuming the sugary drinks did not change. In effect, the calories from sucrose or glucose didn’t do much to satiate the participants. However, participants who drank sucrose beverages without lactisole had less of an appetite later on.
While glucose had no effect on how much the participants ate, sucrose did. Volunteers who drank sucrose solutions without lactisole consumed, on average, 100 fewer calories than those who drank the sucrose and lactisole beverages. The volunteers in the no-lactisole group also had slightly higher body core temperatures. This suggests that participants who were able to taste the sugar in their drinks had slightly higher metabolic rates during digestion.
Scientists also found that the no-lactisole sucrose group had higher levels of serotonin in blood readings. Why was serotonin of interest? This all-important hormone stabilizes mood, increases feelings of happiness, and regulates metabolism by suppressing appetite.
Researchers agree that more studies need to be done to confirm their findings. Still, these first steps suggest that a little sugar may not be all that bad. Adding a spoonful to your morning coffee or tea may be a great first step in curbing your appetite and helping you on your weight loss journey.
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