Posted - November 9, 2010

Bariatric Surgery for Your Sweet Tooth

If you struggle to control cravings for sweet tasting foods, Penn State College of Medicine researchers think a solution may be available. Their research on a group of obese, diabetic rats showed changes in gastrointestinal anatomy following gastric bypass surgery that reduced the rat’s preference for sweet tasting foods. The rats also showed an increased tolerance for glucose indicating that their diabetes had improved.

The researchers are not suggesting that gastric bypass surgery is the answer for anyone with a sweet tooth. Instead, they suggest that identifying the underlying mechanism that changes the brain’s taste response after bypass surgery may lead to other treatments that mimic the effect without having the surgery.

According to a leading expert in the field of bariatric surgery, Andras Hajnal, M.D., Ph.D. associate professor at the Department of Neural and Behavioral Science and Surgery, gastric bypass is the most common and effective treatment for the morbidly obese and many patients who undergo the surgery report changes in the taste of different foods.

This study confirms a neurological change in the brain’s response to sweet tasting foods but not to salty, sour, or bitter foods. Prior to the surgery, the rats showed a marked preference for sweet tasting substances that was higher than non-obese rats.  The researchers theorize that this craving for sweet foods may contribute to a vicious cycle that contributes to weight gain in the first place.  Altering the response to sweet substances so that less pleasure is obtained from eating them, has potential benefits for anyone struggling with weight control.