Why Diet Soda Actually Tastes Good

Perhaps this explains why Diet Coke has such a big following: New research from "Federico II" University in Italy found that the presence of carbonation in sodas actually affects our perception of sweetness, which might be a big deal for dieters out there.

The study, which investigated how the brain reacts to various sweeteners in combination with carbon dioxide, found that while carbon dioxide did reduce the "neural processing" of the artificial sweeteners, it dulled the perception of plain old sucrose even more.

"Our data suggest that CO2 modulates the perception of sweetness, reducing the global neural processing of sweetness, the processing of sucrose more than of As-Ac, and the processing difference between sweetening agents," the study said. In plain English, carbonation not only reduces the perception of regular sugar more than artificial sweeteners, but it also allowed for the masking of artificial sweeteners, lowering people's ability to differentiate between the two.

The researchers' hope is that the tasters' inability to discriminate between sucrose and As-Ac (artificial sweetening agent) would allow for easier consumption of sodas and juices made with artificial sweeteners, "promot[ing] the consumption of low-calorie beverages and [converging] with CO2-induced gastric distention in limiting caloric intake." So news for makers of diet beverages or lower-calorie juices? Just add some bubbles and you might have a top seller.