New research says artificial sweeteners make you fat, or are more likely to do so than previously thought. And that’s aside from the hundreds of well-documented and often life-destroying health risks from these food-like substances.
The research was reported in Behavioural Neuroscience.
The article says that eating food sweetened with saccharine can lead to greater body-weight gain than the same food sweetened with high-calorie sugar, and they expect that other artificial sweeteners could have a similar effect.
They think the glucose prompts the body to prepare for more calories activating the digestive system – which the artificial sweeteners do not!
The researchers fed rats yoghurt sweetened with saccharine, and the control group had glucose-sweetened yoghurt. Those who ate the artificially-sweetened yoghurt then ate more food and gained more weight and body fat.
How Do Artificial Sweeteners Make YouFat?
The insulin in the blood, with no glucose, causes the body to stimulate the hunger response. You will eat food that your body can turn into glucose so the insulin can do it’s job of moving glucose around. Insulin in the blood is a signal to eat!
(Candace Pert in How to Feel Good reports that over 9000 “foods” currently on the shelves are sweetened with aspartame.)
Not surprisingly, the food industry isn’t happy with this result. Their first counter argument was presented by a dietician with the US Calorie Control Council, a body that represents – wait for it – the makers of reduced calorie foods!
The Council says the report oversimplifies the causes of obesity (no kiddng). They say obesity is related to:
- increased portion sizes (possibly true, especially when thinking about highly processed foods which create excessive inflammation in the body)
- physical activity has decreased (true, until it levelled out in the late 80s and has stayed about static since), and
- overall calorie intake has increased (big fat lie! only 60 years ago the average daily calorie intake was around 5000 per day!! it’s now around 2200!)
What I don’t get at all is how someone who works for one of these Councils can so completely ignore the evidence that this stuff is toxic, and say that the decreased calorie benefit outweighs all the health risks. It just doesn’t make sense to me…
No doubt we’ll soon be seeing counter-studies funded by the artificial sweeterner industry, telling us that sugar is bad, it causes diabetes and acne and cavities and and and ……….. bets, anyone?
What You Can Eat Instead of Artificial Sweeteners
I get that you probably like your sweet tastes, your sodas, your gum, choccies and all that. So do I! And while an apple might be sweet, sometimes it just doesn’t cut it!
We do need sweet flavours – sweet is one of the five tastes we humans can detect. In our hunter-gatherer past, sweet was an indicator that a food was safe.
For years I’ve chosen plain sugar ahead of anything artificial, and not because artificial sweeteners make you fat, but because the stuff buggers up your brain!
Sugar is not ideal though because it too hides in everything.
But, switch to sugar first.
Then start to get conscious of where and when you want sweet foods, and look for healthy alternatives, they are out there.
What Healthy Sweet Alternatives are There?
Okay – first the only processed sweetener I’d ever recommend is Stevia. It’s a herb and doesn’t cause that hunger-inducing insulin spike, look around to a non-bitter version.
Then learn to cook – there are loads and loads of awesome recipes that use sweet fruits and vegetables and nuts for cookies, cakes, all kinds of desserts and snacks.
Ultimately the aim is get a lovely balance in your bod so you don’t crave sweets ahead of other foods. But for now, sugar is the lesser of the evils.
Update 2013: we’re now seeing artificial sweeteners marketed as natural sweeteners! Be alert, be aware, be healthy!
This article is part of the Body Fat: Good, Bad or Ugly? series, click here to read more.