They also pointed to a 2007 study they funded that showed kids who switched to their non-caloric sweetener and increased their exercise level did a better job of maintaining a healthy weight than the control group.
Dieting makes you fat?
A study from Purdue University published in Behavioral Neuroscience in February 2008, showed that rats fed artificially-sweetened yogurt ate more calories and gained more weight (and fat) than rats fed yogurt sweetened with real sugar. And, later on, they ate more of a new, calorie-rich sweet food they were offered, presumably because on some level they forgot that sweet things can satisfy them and provide calories.
One theory the researchers are working with is that eating artificially sweetened foods disrupts the "sweet taste = calories" association that we expect from our food. They think that could throw off our natural moderation of eating and weight gain.
See a note on the SplendaÂ® website addressing the issue.
What about humans?
A study published in the journal NeuroImage in February of 2008 showed a difference between MRI scans of people who drank sugar water versus those who drank sucralose-sweetened water.
Only the sugar group showed activity in a specific portion of the midbrain that is associated with pleasantness. An interesting twist is that consciously, the subjects did not recognize the difference, but on another level, their brain knew when they drank the real sugar.
Researchers continue to ask if it will one day be possible to help people eat fewer calories and still feel satisfied. That, says Oliveira-Maia, is the million-dollar question.
The research was published in Neuron, March 2008. It was funded by NIH and Philip Morris. Dr. Oliveira-Maia is also supported by a grant from the Government of Portugal. Also referenced in the article: Pediatrics, October 2007; Behavioral Neuroscience, February 2008.