There is an ongoing controversy about whether artificial sweetener usage poses more health risks than intended. It’s easy to assume that the intake of fewer calories than what’s in sugar results in weight loss. However, the use of diet drinks sweetened with artificial sweeteners is a marker for increasing weight gain and obesity.
The sweet taste induces an insulin response, causing blood sugar storage in tissues. But, because blood sugar does not increase with artificial sweeteners, there is hypoglycemia and increased food intake, resulting in weight gain. So, natural sweeteners like stevia and honey are preferred to artificial sweeteners as they do not affect the blood pressure or the blood glucose response.1 Here’s what you need to know about weight gain with the use of artificial sweeteners, the science behind it, and safer:
Using Artificial Sweeteners In Place Of Sugar
Sugar is an inseparable part of many foods, but too much sugar is not good for your health, teeth, and waistline. Excessive sugar may play an essential role in the development of many degenerative diseases.
Artificial sweeteners or artificially sweetened products continue to attract consumers. An artificial sweetener or sugar substitute is a food additive that duplicates the effect of sugar in taste but has less food energy and is very low in calories. Although such sweeteners can play a role in a calorie-controlled diet, they tend to become less helpful in calorie control over a longer period of use.2
The Scientific Argument Against Artificial Sweeteners
If you happen to hit a weight-loss plateau, the chances are that there is something in your diet that is stimulating insulin production. Sometimes, even the dressings, sauces, and drinks that you consume can contain artificial sweeteners. Over time, when you eat artificial sweeteners, the increased sweetness dulls the sweet taste buds on your tongue. This could lead to overindulging in sweets and cravings for simple carbs like sugar, candy, chips, crackers, cookies, and other baked goods.
The reason for such cravings is that the body is tricked into thinking that it is getting some quick energy in the form of sugar. When that doesn’t happen, the body may crave simple carbs to make up for it and find quick energy. If you give in to those cravings, you begin to gain weight.
The use of artificial sweeteners leads to an increased consumption of fat as well. The limited ability of fat to satisfy hunger pangs makes it easy to overeat fatty foods. Sugar substitutes sabotage the body’s ability to monitor food intake based on a food’s taste as the body is confused with the sweet taste of artificial sweeteners. There is no way you can burn all that extra sugar and carbs without offsetting the calories with extreme physical activity. So, if you aren’t active enough, your body stores the excess as fat.3
The Big Three Artificial Sweeteners To Avoid
Artificial sweeteners are everywhere, and when trying to be calorie-conscious, you tend to grab the diet or zero-calorie choice every time. Psychologically, it sounds like you are doing your body a favor, but you would be shocked to look at what these artificial chemicals are doing to your body. Remember that you are ingesting chemicals in the place of sugar.
Artificial sweeteners include sucralose, aspartame, and saccharin. They are also called non-nutritive sweeteners as they don’t provide any energy apart from the sweet taste. The sucralose and saccharin compounds are not metabolized in the body. In contrast, the body digests aspartame as a protein. In fact, aspartame yields energy equivalent to 4 kcal per gram as does protein but because so little energy is produced, its energy contribution is negligible. However, these components are capable of confusing the body to crave for more energy and, in turn, causing weight gain.4
Other Health Issues Associated With Artificial Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners also bring several adverse side effects. Saccharin may cause nausea, diarrhea, skin problems, and other allergy-related issues. It is even linked to certain cancers.5 Aspartame may lead to mood disorders, memory problems, and other neurological illnesses. Sucralose may cause head and muscle aches and is possibly related to multiple sclerosis, stomach cramps, bladder issues, skin irritation, dizziness, and inflammation.
These artificial sweeteners are known as excitotoxins, which means that they overexcite neurons in the brain causing degeneration and even death in important nerve cells. When too many nerve cells die, your nervous system begins to malfunction, and it cannot communicate with other parts of your body. This can ultimately lead to nervous system disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.6
Skipping artificial sweeteners may be a good choice seeing its many ill effects. Although promoted to help you fight the sugar cravings, these may interfere with your efforts to lose weight by confusing your body and can disrupt the hormonal balance. Try natural sweeteners like stevia and raw honey instead. These natural sweeteners, used in moderation, can keep the blood sugar levels stable and also provide vitamins and nutrients.
|↑1||Tandel, Kirtida R. “Sugar substitutes: Health controversy over perceived benefits.” Journal of pharmacology & pharmacotherapeutics 2, no. 4 (2011): 236.|
|↑2||Benton, David. “Can artificial sweeteners help control body weight and prevent obesity?.” Nutrition research reviews 18, no. 1 (2005): 63-76.|
|↑3||SanFilippo, Justine. “Lose Your Inches Without Losing Your Mind!: 10 Simple Weeks to a Slimmer Waistline and a Healthier You.” Greenleaf Book Group, 2014.|
|↑4||Whitney, Eleanor, and Sharon Rady Rolfes. Understanding nutrition. Cengage Learning, 2007.|
|↑5||Gallus, S., L. Scotti, E. Negri, R. Talamini, S. Franceschi, M. Montella, A. Giacosa, L. Dal Maso, and C. La Vecchia. “Artificial sweeteners and cancer risk in a network of case–control studies.” Annals of Oncology 18, no. 1 (2006): 40-44.|
|↑6||Cruise, Jorge. “The Belly Fat Cure™: Discover the New Carb Swap System™ and Lose 4 to 9 lbs. Every Week.” Hay House, Inc, 2015.|