Containing artificial sweeteners like sucralose and acesulfame potassium, Coke Zero Sugar replicates the taste of Original Coke but many still note the zero-calorie cannot compare to the full-sugar original. Simply put, despite being close, there are key subtle differences between sugar and artificial sweeteners picked up by the human body upon ingestion.
Earlier this month, researchers at Duke University published a new study that the gastrointestinal tract and not the tongue is what distinguishes between Coca-Cola Original and Coca-Cola Zero Sugar. Apparently, neuropod cells in the stomach and intestine send signals to the brain that recognize sugar and artificial sweeteners differently. The vagus nerve in the brain can figure out the difference within two millionths of a second thanks to neurotransmitters like glutamate and ATP.
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