From kids with sugar rushes to grandparents who swear they just need one more bite of chocolate, humans absolutely love sugar. In an , it makes sense. Sugar used to be relatively hard to come by, and it is packed with valuable calories. Recently, however, our relationship with sugar has been complicated, to say the least.
In the US, we consume an average of everyday, far exceeding any nutritional guidelines. While we continue to study why our brains love sugar so much, a group of scientists showed that it might not even be, technically, our fault.
The team from Columbia University found that the gut-brain axis (the connection between bacteria in your gut and your brain), in the sugar preference of mice. The scientists directly injected either glucose or an artificial sweetener to the guts of mice, and saw an activation of different regions of the brain when glucose was present, but not with the artificial sweetener.
Next, they genetically silenced that specific brain region, which completely took away the mice’s preference for sugar. They were also able to modify that region to induce the mice to enjoy new flavors.
One of the key things in the study is that all of the action is happening away from the tongue. This shows that there are circuits inducing our love for sugar, beyond our love for sweet tastes. This also helps explain why artificial sweeteners have not changed our consumption of sugar, since they fail to activate this new gut-brain circuit. Although we need to verify how this translates to humans, this new circuit offers new exciting insights.