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Insulin reponse from sweet taste?

Is it possible for an insulin response to be initated only by taste? Can a no carb, no cal item, such as Splenda cause a release of insulin just because of it’s taste?

I vaguely remember reading something to this fact but couldn’t find further information regarding it.

Good question. Anyone?

I did a bit more searching and found these:

These threads are a couple of years old so I’m curious if new research has shed any new light on the subject.

insulin is a response to an increase in blood sugar. how could taste effect this?

I don’t think so.

But remember that “carb free” items like Splenda actually DO have a fraction of a gram of carbs (they round down) – so if you’re using a bunch of packets in one sitting, you can bet your ass you CAN get an insulin response.

also, someone, i believe berardi has recommended fat free/sugar free jell-o pudding to curb your sweet craving. i doubt he would make that recommendation if it caused an insulin spike.

I have wondered this myself and think maybe possibly it could be valid in some people that have MASSIVE sweets cravings like OB/Type 2 people. I associate it with higher brain functions, such as a baby crying and causing a woman to start lactating (I swear this is true) or the urge to go to the bathroom when you hear water running. Just my 2cc.

I know that both Atkins and Lyle McDonald had, at various times, recommended against overly-sweet foods, regardless of their carb content. Apparently there is (or was, as this stuff is a couple of years old) the belief that our insulin response is a bit more complex than previously thought, and not entirely based on the macronutrients we ingest.

OK I’m no expert in nutrition but I do know quite a bit about psychology. What does that have to do with the question being asked? Well, in one of my first year undergraduate psychology classes I remember reading about studies relevant to your question. Sorry, I don’t have the references and the details are a little fuzzy (this was several years ago) but you should be able to find studies using “conditioned insulin response” as a search term.

Anyway, the gist of it is that insulin can be released in response to stimuli that shouldn’t inherently trigger it through classical conditioning (remember Pavlov’s dog?). Your body learns to associate events that occur in temporal proximity.

So you eat a quickly digested carb source, as it gets digested your body releases insulin. Other stimuli that co-occur with the ingestion of the carbs can eventually elicit the same response as ingesting the carbs. So the sight, smell, taste of the carbs can come to elicit the insulin response before you even eat anything. I don’t know how strong the insulin response is though…

If anyone wants to hear more I can elaborate on this (e.g. how to undo such learned associations).

Rob, I would be very interested in your elaborating on the subject, though I’m going to do some research on the term your recommended, too. Thanks for that!

OK, I’ll elaborate. Like I said, I’m no expert in nutrition but I think what I know about associative learning can be applied here.

I’ll use the classical example. You put some food in your dog?s mouth. What happens, it salivates. Duh! The food is called an unconditioned stimulus (US) and the salivation an unconditioned response (UR). Unconditioned just mean that no conditioning or learning or association is required. The stimulus elicits the response automatically, it is hard wired. Now, say you play a certain note on your piano every time you give your dog some food. The tone is a neutral stimulus. Neutral because on its own it doesn’t produce any response (besides an orientation response which just means that the dog turns its head to see what the hell that sound was but eventually stops checking if nothing happens). But keep pairing this neutral stimulus (NS) with the US several times. Then play the note BUT don’t put any food in your dog?s mouth (I know its a little cruel). What happens? He salivates! He has learned to associate the NS with the US. Now the tone is no longer neutral, it is a conditioned stimulus (CS) and elicits a conditioned response (CR). So what, well certain food elicit an insulin response automatically, if other neutral stimuli such as tastes, smells, even sights, are paired with these foods regularly they can eventually trigger an insulin response even if you don’t eat the food! So seeing an add about chocolate cake can get you to release insulin.

Now if you want to apply some of this stuff you should now about generalization, discrimination, and extinction.

Generalization means that stimuli that are similar to the CS can also elicit a CR but to a lesser degree. So if you play a slightly different note than the one you keep playing every time you gave your dog some food it will still salivate but less so. The more different the tone from the original, the smaller the salivation response.

Now if you continue to present tones that are very similar to the original tone (US) but don’t present any food, and present food with the CS, the dog can learn to discriminate (tell the difference) between the tone that signals food and the other ones. This is discrimination.

Lastly, what happens if you keep presenting the CS with no food? Eventually the CS no longer elicits a CR. It goes back to being neutral. This is extinction.

I could say a whole lot more but now that you know some basics I’m sure you can apply this stuff to nutrition.

Nice post Bob. It is similar also to psychosomatic illnesses.

In the late 80’s I read of research about this subject. They found that artificial sweeteners caused an increase in insulin. I can’t remember where I read it, or if it was a very big effect, but I don’t think it was.

Bob A is right on the money. His explanation was similar (from what I remember) to theirs.

won’t it be a bad thing if you triggered an insulin release of significant proportion without an increase of blood sugar? a bit like poking yourself with insulin and forgetting your carbs afterwards?

ps i know this may be the stupidest thing i have ever asked.

Thanks Bob,

So more practically, will the sweet taste of the Splenda in my coffee kick me out of lipolysis by jacking up my insulin levels?

Sorry for the naivety of the question. I’m just beginning to really get a grasp on insulin and all those damn 'olysises and and 'ogenesises.


This is major news that hit most of the traditional media. However, it was no surprise to me as I have been emphasizing for many years that sugar, which in excess often leads to obesity, is one of the primary factors in cancer. If you have cancer you simply can?t eat sugar.

Dr. Warburg received the Nobel Prize over 70 years ago for finding out that cancer cells thrive on glucose. How long does it take before we get it?

However, as I explain in my book The No-Grain Diet it is not just sugar that causes the problem but also grains. Grains break down very rapidly to sugar and trigger the same issues.

Grains and sugar are the primary reason why two-thirds of our country?s population is overweight or obese. Most of us would benefit by avoiding or seriously limiting our grain intake.

What really did surprise me was that this study was funded by Nutrasweet and Coca-Cola. I don?t understand the connection or what their reason for funding a study with this obvious conclusion. Would they use it to promote the use of Nutrasweet?

If they did they would be seriously incorrect as anything sweet is likely to cause similar problems. Just like Pavlov?s dogs salivated when he rang a bell that was associated with the steak, people will still release insulin when given something sweet like artificial sweeteners even though there are no calories. The sweetness itself will raise insulin levels just like sugar does.

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Thanks for an interesting question. I did a little research, and the answer (preliminarily) was somewhat differant than I thought. A study in Belgium (published 1998) demonstrated a difference in insulin response to artificial sweetners (Saccharin, Aspartame, etc). This study found that sweeteners with a bitter aftertaste (saccharin included) induced an insulin response while aspartame (without a bitter aftertaste) did not. The opnion is presented that the taste buds stimulate the insulin response via their bitter-taste receptors sending messages to the pancreas (Rat subjects tested) What I don’t know is if the amounts used to stimulate the response were relevent for human consumption.

No one fully understands insulin. The only way to truly know if sucralose raises insulin is to test it.

I think I read recently that certain smells can raise insulin.

One study claims:

This study measured blood glucose and insulin response in both normals and diabetics.