Retail Outlets Promote Impulse Buys of Sugary Items in Check-Out Aisles

Placement of these items may drive impulse buys, and because these stores sold products for children, parents and caregivers should be aware of these practices at the outset. Interview with:
Corey Hannah Basch, Ed.D., M.P.H., CHES
Professor and Department Chair Public Health
William Paterson University

Dr. Basch  What is the background for this study?  What are the main findings?

Response: There are many factors that influence food choices, which are not limited simply to access and availability. This study focused on exposure to opportunities for unplanned food and beverage purchases, specifically candy, snack foods, and sugary beverages are available in checkout lines in a convenience sample retail chain stores in New York City that sell products for children.

The main findings are that most of the stores in the sample sold at least one form of convenience foods at the checkout. In addition, “corral-style” checkout lines had a more diverse sample of snack foods available throughout the line.  

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Which Sugar Suppresses Appetite Better?

I would advise reducing the consumption of sugar-sweetened foods and beverages and instead eating more whole foods, like fruits and vegetables, which have many health benefits. Interview with:
Katie Page, MD
Associate Professor of Medicine
Co-Director, Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute
Department of Internal Medicine
Division of Endocrinology
USC Keck School of Medicine  What is the background for this study?  What are the main findings?

Response: Health experts advise people to cut back on sugar. My team at Keck School of Medicine at USC has been researching whether the type of sugar people consume makes a difference on their health. In this paper, we examined how appetite regulating hormones respond to sucrose compared to glucose. Sucrose is a disaccharide that contains equal parts of glucose and fructose, whereas glucose is a simple sugar (or monosaccharide).

The different structures affect the way the sugars interact with tissues, which influences their effects on the body. In prior studies, we showed that the monosaccharide, fructose, produces lower levels of hunger suppressing hormones than glucose. In this study, we were interested in examining sucrose because it is more of a real-world sugar and one of the most commonly consumed added sugars in our diet.  

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Scientists Explain Why Artificial Sweeteners Don’t Quench Our Appetite for Sugar

We identified a key gut-to-brain circuit responsible for our unquenchable sugar appetite. Interview with:
Alexander Sisti, MD/PhD Candidate
Zuker Lab
Columbia University

suga  What is the background for this study? 

Response: Our lab has studied the biology of mammalian taste for over two decades. Previous work has identified the receptors for all five basic taste qualities (sweet, sour, bitter, salty, umami).

In the course of these studies, we generated mice lacking sweet receptors (i.e. “sweet-blind”). Unexpectedly, we observed that these animals could eventually learn to identify and develop a preference for a sugar-containing bottle—even though they could not taste it. This was not true for artificial sweeteners. This led us to hypothesize that there was something about the sugar that made the animals feel good and want more of it.

We set out to identify the brain circuits underlying our insatiable appetite for sugar which could operate independently from the taste system. So, we searched the brain for areas activated by sugar but not artificial sweeteners and areas that responded to sugar in the sweet-blind animals. We wanted to identify where the sugar signal was coming from.  What are the main findings?

Response: Our work revealed that sugar activates a selective circuit from the gut to the brain. This pathway is responsible for our “wanting” of sugar. It does not respond to artificial sweeteners and operates completely independently from the classical tongue-to-brain taste system (which mediates “liking” of all sweet substances, including artificial sweeteners). The discovery of this new circuit fundamentally changes the way we think about the action of sugar in the brain. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Our most significant findings are:

  1. We identified a key gut-to-brain circuit responsible for our unquenchable sugar appetite.
  2. We demonstrate that silencing this circuit is able to completely abolish development of sugar preference. Essentially, we were able to create “sugar-blind” animals insensitive to sugar craving. Given the extraordinary impact of sugar on the global epidemic of obesity, metabolic syndrome and diabetes, identifying new strategies to curb sugar consumption could have a meaningful impact on human health.
  3. Our results explain why artificial sweeteners have failed in reducing our appetite for sugar, as they cannot activate this gut-brain circuit.


Hwei-Ee Tan, Alexander C. Sisti, Hao Jin, Martin Vignovich, Miguel Villavicencio, Katherine S. Tsang, Yossef Goffer, Charles S. Zuker. The gut–brain axis mediates sugar preferenceNature, 2020; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-2199-7


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