Artificial Sweeteners Make You Fat

artificial sweeteners make you fat

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?

artificial sweeteners make you fat 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!

And Finally…

This article is part of the Body Fat: Good, Bad or Ugly? series, click here to read more.



  1. Peggy Huntley on January 14, 2009 at 11:49 am

    G’day Sandy,
    The use of artificial sweeteners is ever increasing and unfortunately unless you read the FINE PRINT on your food labels (and most times this particular additive is not included on the label) whether you wish to ingest it or not, you may quite involuntarily do so.
    There is a lot of information (online in American website) about the dangers of aspartame (one of the artificial sweeteners) but a great many people are confused because these products hide under innocent sounding names. And of course their makers praise their products stating that it will be good for weight loss.
    And most people do not read labels (and often don’t understand the names given to these chemicals or understand the actual effect a concoction of these chemicals ingested everyday would do to a human body).
    And not everyone has access to a computer or how to research these topics online.
    Newspapers do not report much about these sort of topics. The companies who produce these products making millions are very powerful indeed.
    WE THE CONSUMERS ARE MUCH MORE POWERFUL once we have the knowledge and unite in our refusal of have any of these chemicals included in our food supply.
    For instance, there are several bread manufacturers who have now produced several product ranges which do not include preservatives (and some have substantially reduced the use of colour and sulphites) and all because a group of mothers started agitating about the effect these chemicals had on their children and on themselves.
    Perhaps Australia should follow the lead of JAPAN who has banned the use of these artificial sweeteners since 1986 and instead uses STEVIA, a plant, which can be used for baking, cooking as well as just stirring it into your tea or coffee without being adversely affected by heat and creating an even more dangerous product for the human body to try to cope with.
    My personal observation is that far from assisting with weight loss, it has the opposite effect on a great many people. One of my sisters, being a bit chubby (10kg over after having a couple of children) went to Weight Watchers, who encouraged her to drink diet Pepsi . All went well for six months and my sister achieved her weight goal.
    But then she began to drink more and more diet Pepsi, and ate more cakes, biscuits and sweets.
    Soon she ballooned to a huge weight and has been obese for about 10 years now. She was drinking up to seven 2.4 or 3 litre bottles per week (that she admits to).
    She has struggled to rid herself of her excess weight by following a better diet and exercising.
    Once we alerted her to the effects of the artificial sweeteners in her diet drinks, she has struggled to rid herself of Diet Pepsi. She had been totally oblivious of the terrible side effect the diet drink had had on her weight and her health.
    She said that it was the worst thing she had ever done to start on Diet Pepsi and it has taken her nearly 8 years to overcome her addiction to DIET PEPSI.
    She is very slowly losing her addiction to empty calories (sweet stuff) along with her addiction to Diet Pepsi.
    Don’t take my word for it :Just look about you when you go to the supermarket.
    Look at the trolleys (my husband made this observation) usually there are several very large bottles of Diet Pepsi, Diet Coke, Diet Cordial etc. along with heaps of cakes, biscuits, sweets, pies, fries etc. amongst the groceries and this combination is nearly nine times of ten pushed by obese/morbidly obese men and women, sadly they often have very fat/ obese young children and teenagers trailing along behind them.
    And no it does not cost a great deal more money to eat nutritional and healthy delicious meals as a recent reader wrote in the Sunday Mail. Nor does it require special DIET AIDS as her letter suggested.
    It does require however checking out how to cook well balanced meals and where to purchase fresh wholesome ingredients (and no, they do not come in packages and tins)
    and then gradually the excess weight, fat and fluid drops off, you will feel healthier, more energetic and happier (and NO YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE ULTRA THIN (read scrawny).
    Healthy eating can be a lot of fun, maybe a challenge to start with, but the benefits are wonderful and long lasting. Cooking can be a great hobby, enjoy! Cheers Peggy

    • Sandy Ross on January 16, 2009 at 9:10 am

      Hi Peggy
      Completely agree – once people get the full picture about all these additives in our ‘food’, they almost always choose to not purchase that food anymore. For example, manufacturers are en-masse dropping trans-fats from their production cycle. Sadly what they’re replacing it with – interesterified oils – seems to be even worse! It will make the blood sugar/insulin problems triggered by all those processed foods you talked about above, even worse! Funny how people think the packaged biscuits, cakes etc are ‘treats’. When my kids were at school they often swapped their lovely home-baked goodies with the kids who had the pre-packaged stuff, because they so seldom had that kind of stuff – and there was a queue to swap with them. They think it’s funny now, at the time they felt quite deprived – but they’re both excellent cooks! I actually think you can’t be an independent adult if you can’t prepare your own food.

      I found an interesting labelling thing a few weeks ago – I am a big fan of sodastream. My naturopath put me onto soda water a few years ago as an indigestion sorter (amazing!) and I like the fizz, but not the plastic that soft drinks are usually bottled in, and not the amount of sugar in soft drinks (though I do buy them from time to time). So sodastream it is. I saw a new flavour of syrup (usually I don’t add syrup at all, just the plain soda) and it reminded me of my creamy-soda-lovign childhood πŸ™‚ So I bought it and it was quite tasty. Now this was NOT labelled as ‘diet’ syrup – so imagine my surprise when I read the label, after drinking the stuff mind you, and it contains not only cane sugar but acesulfame potassium, and sucralose! Wikipedia says: Acesulfame K is often blended with other sweeteners (usually sucralose or aspartame). These blends are reputed to give a more sugar-like taste whereby each sweetener masks the other’s aftertaste, and/or exhibits a synergistic effect by which the blend is sweeter than its components.” I’m filled with joy at this information, as you can imagine! So I’ll be paying more attention to labelling than I usually do, and usually I pay a lot of attention!

      I had a person in a body image class a couple of years ago who dropped a years-old litres-a-day diet coke habit with just a couple of rounds of EFT – it’s a remarkable therapy πŸ™‚

      Thanks for posting πŸ™‚

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