60-Second Science

Tongue's Sugar Sensors Also Found In Gut

Receptors for sugar are found in the gut as well as the tongue--which could explain why some artificial sweeteners may not curb the deep-down crave. Karen Hopkin reports.

People who crave cupcakes and candy bars are said to have a sweet tooth…even though sugar lust has nothing to do with your teeth. Because, as we all know, the way we detect sweetness is with specialized sugar sensors found in the tongue.

Well, scientists at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York have strayed even further from the mouth in their attempt to understand how the body recognizes sweeties. They’ve discovered that two of the tongue’s sugar-sensing receptors are also found in the gut…in specialized taste cells that tell the intestine when there’s glucose about.

If you think about it, the presence of these sugar sensors in your intestine makes sense. The small intestine is the main place where dietary sugars are absorbed into your body. So when you sneak down to the kitchen at 2am to polish off that tray of brownies, your gut’s the first to know. And cells in your intestine then call for more insulin…lots of insulin…and, then let your brain know you’re full.

Interestingly, the discovery of taste receptors in the intestine could explain why artificial sweeteners don’t really help you lose weight. Seems your tongue might be fine with a mouthful of aspartame. But your belly’s holding out for the real deal. Which it wants tout de suite.

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