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How Artificial Sweeteners Can Actually Make You Put On Weight
Artificial sweeteners are not magic bullets
Artificial sweeteners may seem like the answer to the prayers for anyone who loves sweetness, and wants to lose weight. These sweeteners contain zero calories while a sugar-sweetened can of soda, for example, contains 150 to 200 calories.
If you love sodas, and you switch to artificially-sweetened drinks, you would naturally expect to lose weight. This may work in theory, but in actuality, it may not always be the case. One concern is that folk who drink diet sodas may offset the lost calories by having a piece of cake or a couple of cookies. It is also possible that artificial sweeteners may change the way you taste food, as they are hundreds of times sweeter than sugar, which could cause you to desire sweeter and sweeter food items.
In other words with a strong desire for sweet things, you may shun healthy, nutritious foods, and opt for the artificially sweetened items with no nutritional value. Choosing over-sweet foods, which may also be high in carbohydrates, has a strong potential to make you gain weight.
Artificial sweeteners are not miracle workers, but if you use them properly in a calorie- controlled diet to reduce added sugars in your diet, and therefore lowering calorie intake, it could help you attain a healthy body weight.
RELATED: Sweeteners: Healthier Than Sugar?
How do these sweeteners work?
Sugar-containing foods in their natural form, like fruit for example, is not the bad guy. It is the refined version of sugar, full of calories and acid, and which is added to many foods that causes the weight gain and other health issues.
Added sugar is a health disaster of major proportions, and that is why people are trying to avoid it by opting for the artificial sweeteners.
These sweeteners are manufactured from various chemicals which replicate the taste of sugar. The substances used can stimulate the sweet-taste receptors on the tongue, but they have no calories, nor the harmful effects of added sugar on the metabolic system of the body.
The manufactured sweeteners are extremely sweet, are often added to foods and drinks which are then marketed as weight-loss friendly.
Researchers claim that the body will soon adapt to the extra sweetness of these foods, but will also discern the discrepancy between sweetness and energy levels because of lower calorie intake. As a result of the perceived lower energy levels, the body may prompt you to eat unhealthy carbohydrates to increase calorie intake.
Studies agree that unless you are on a special calorie-reduced diet, the extra carbs you eat can indeed make you put on extra weight. In fact, there is a school of thought among some researchers who believe that artificial sweeteners do not satisfy the body’s need for natural sweetness in the same way that refined sugar does, and may therefore lead to eating more food than is necessary.
Types of artificial sweeteners
There are various kinds of artificial sweeteners available, and the chemical structure also varies. They do, however, all have something in common – all are extremely effective at stimulating the sweet-taste receptors on the tongue.
The FDA has approved only 5 of the myriad brands of artificial sweeteners on the market today. These are:
- It is the oldest sweetener still in use, and is about 300 to 400 times sweeter than sugar. There are reports that it leaves a bitter or metallic aftertaste.
- It is around 200 times sweeter than sugar, and is widely used by manufacturers to give food and drinks a sweet taste.
- It is a very common sweetener, about 200 times sweeter than sugar.
- This one is made by NutraSweet and is incredibly between 7000 and 13,000 times sweeter than sugar. This high sweetness level makes it excellent as part of a full diabetic diet.
- Sucralose has been in use for more than 20 years and is still popular today. It is up to 650 times sweeter than sugar.
All of these sweeteners, no matter which brand you opt to buy, contain zero calories. Studies indicate that the products can be useful for people like diabetics who need to control their sugar intake, and for obese people on a strict, sugar-free diet.
How safe are the artificial sweeteners to take?
- There were some misinformed stories doing the rounds that artificial sweeteners are worse for you than sugar, as they are cancer forming. According to the National Cancer Institute, none of the sweeteners approved for use in the US cause cancer.
- Artificial sweeteners do not affect blood sugar or insulin levels, and therefore do not add to the risk of heart or cardiovascular disease.
- The FDA has shared some direct responses from folk who reported some minor adverse reactions from prolonged use of artificial sweeteners, mainly of the aspartame brand, which is actually approved by the FDA.
- Migraines, changes in vision.
- Nausea, vomiting.
- Sleep problems.
- Joint pain, abdominal pain.
Just as all artificial sweeteners are not equal, humans are not all equal. Your body’s reactions to the sweeteners may be very different to someone else’s. Basically, there are very few serious side effects, and experts advise you to change brands if you experience any of the symptoms.
The bottom line
Artificial sweeteners alone will not help you to lose weight. It is actually true that you may end up putting on some weight. For example, you could have a diet soda for lunch (calorie free) then have some ice cream later, which just puts the calories right back.
While artificial sweeteners do provide a very sweet taste, many researchers believe that the lack of calories may hinder the complete path of the food-chain in the body.
This could be why artificial sweeteners are linked with increased appetite for real food, and often cravings for sugary food, which may lead to weight gain.
If you really want to lose weight, forget about the artificial sweeteners, follow a healthy diet, and eat less of everything.