Apr 19 2020

The Dangers of an Insatiable Sweet Tooth

Published by at 11:23 am under Sugar

Do you have an insatiable sweet tooth?
The vagus nerve and the gut to brain connection may be driving it. 1*

Last time we talked about the importance of keeping the gut healthy to support our emotional health. When there is so much overwhelming information flooding our screens and minds at the present, we need to take extra care to stay healthy. With 90 percent of our serotonin created in the gut, and then sent to the brain via the vagus nerve, we know that it is important to keep our guts healthy. Now, researchers have found another interesting role the vagus nerve plays in controlling our mental state and impulses. (1,2)*

Charles Zuker at Columbia University along with co-authors Hwei-Ee Tan and Alexander Sisti has now found that via vagus nerve pathways, the gut sends and the brain receives specific sugar-related information. These findings, which were recently published in the journal Nature, help explain why people have a sweet tooth and further explain the power of the gut-brain connection. This particular circuit sends “sugar signals” from the gut to the brain. (1,2)*

Built upon decades of research on the brain’s taste system, this discovery shows a specialized gut-brain axis that drives sugar preference and could have a significant and positive impact on public health. “…Although this research was conducted in mice, Zuker speculates that the same glucose-sensing vagus nerve pathway exists in humans…”  It is helping us to understand how this circuit impacts our brain to drive sugar consumption and can expose new opportunities for strategies to help curb our taste for sugar and therefore reduce sugar consumption, which is an underlying cause for so many health problems in our country. (1,2)*

An excessive amount of sugar in our diets has been tied to many health conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, a heart condition, and cancer, which affect more than 500 million people worldwide. It is the food for Candida overgrowth in the gut. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), “…the average American consumes about 17 teaspoons of sugar per day…” which adds up to 57 pounds of added sugar per year. The recommended amount for women is no more than six teaspoons of added sugar per day and for men no more than nine teaspoons per day. Children should not have more than 3-6 teaspoons of sugar per day, according to the AHA. (1,2)*

Of particular interest is that this study revealed that the gut-brain circuit only responds to real sugar, which explains why artificial sweeteners don’t bring the same satisfaction as regular sugar when it comes to sugar craving. While artificial sweeteners may taste like sugar on the tongue, according to this study, they don’t trigger the gut-brain axis the way real sugar does. According to Hwei-Ee Tan, “… “The discovery of this specialized gut-brain circuit that responds to sugar—and sugar alone—could pave the way for sweeteners that don’t just trick our tongue but also our brain.”…” (1,2)*

So how does the vagus nerve send this information about sugar from the gut to the brain? The researchers found that when they bypassed the sweet taste receptors on the tongue and went directly to the gut, the part of the brainstem (called the caudal nucleus of the solitary tract) came alive with activity.  Because the vagus nerve is known as a pathway for sending messages along the gut-brain axis, the researchers focused their attention there. They were able to observe how cell activity changed when sugar was present in the gut by monitoring the real-time activity of specific cells in the vagus nerve and then record brain cell activity. They were able to pinpoint a cluster of cells that responded to sugar and saw sugar sensing via this direct gut to the brain pathway. (1,2)*

“…During some elaborate follow-up experiments, Zuker’s team zeroed in on a specific “sugar-transporting protein” called SGLT-1 that appears to communicate the presence of sugar in the gut up to the cNST brain region via the vagus nerve. The researchers also discovered that silencing this gut-brain circuit abolishes sugar cravings in mice…” (1,2)*

These findings demonstrate there are two systems for sensing energy-rich sugar. They complement each other but are independent at the same time. One gets input from the tongue, the other from the gut.  (1,2)*

These findings are significant as they could “…lead to the development of more effective strategies to meaningfully curtail our unquenchable drive for sugar, from modulating various components of this circuit to potentially sugar substitutes that more closely mimic the way sugar acts on the brain…” (1,2)*

This research supports the incredible influence our gut has over our brains, via the vagus nerve and emphasizes the importance of good gut health. By supporting your gut health with Body Biotics™ Bio-Identical SBO Probiotics Consortia™, you are one step ahead in staying not just physically healthy but mentally healthy as well. (1,2)*

I hope you are staying safe, following the guidelines set forth by your state and doing your part to stay healthy in these unchartered waters. We are here to support your health needs and know we are all in this together!*

Healthiest wishes,





  1. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2199-7
  2. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/202004/is-the-vagus-nerve-partly-blame-your-sweet-tooth


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