The effects of the form of sugar (solid vs. beverage) on body weight and fMRI activation: A randomized controlled pilot study

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OBJECTIVE: To test if sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs) and sugar sweetened solids (SSSs) have differential effects on body weight and reward processing in the brain. METHODS: In a single blind randomized controlled pilot trial (RCT), twenty participants with BMI between 20 and 40 kg/m2 were randomized to consume a 20 fluid ounce soda (SSB, 248 kcal) or the equivalent in solid form (SSS; similar to thick gelatin or gummy candy) daily. At baseline and day 28, fasting body weight and fed-state BOLD fMRI of the brain were assessed. Differences in fMRI signals between views of low-fat (LF (<30%)) high sugar (HS (>30%)) food, and non-food images were calculated in brain regions implicated in energy homeostasis, taste, and reward. RESULTS: All participants in the SSB (6F 4M; 8 Caucasian; 36±14 y, 28.2±5.5 kg/m2; Mean±SD) and SSS (3F 7M; 6 Caucasian; 39±12; 26.3±4.4) groups completed the study. Weight change was 0.27±0.78 kg between SSB and SSS participants. Changes in the fMRI response to LF/HS foods in reward, homeostatic and taste regions tended to not be different between the groups over the four weeks. However, activation of the right substantia nigra increased following the SSB but decreased activation following the SSS in response to LF/HS foods over 28 days (-0.32±0.12). Ratings of wanting for LF/HS foods were correlated with activation in several brain regions, including the OFC. CONCLUSIONS: Change in weight was modest between the groups in this study. Daily consumption of a SSB over 28 days led to mixed responses to LF/HS foods in areas of the brain associated with reward. Ratings of wanting are correlated with fMRI activation inside an MRI scanner.

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PloS one

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