Can the "diet" get fat? The truth about artificial sweeteners.

The added sugar is a disaster and many people try to avoid it.

But most of us are used to sweet foods and do not want to live our lives without them.

For this reason, several artificial chemicals have been invented to replicate the effects of sugar.

These are substances that can stimulate the sweet taste receptors on the tongue.

In general, they have no calories and do not have the harmful metabolic effects of added sugar.

These chemicals are known as "artificial" sweeteners … instead of "natural" sweeteners like sugar or honey.

These chemicals are very sweet and are often added to foods and beverages that are then marketed as weight loss products … which makes sense given that they are virtually calorie-free.

However, despite the increased use of these low-calorie sweeteners (and dietary foods in general), the obesity epidemic has only gotten worse.

The evidence regarding artificial sweeteners is actually quite mixed and the use of these substances is very controversial.

So … what is the true About artificial sweeteners? How do they affect appetite, body weight and our risk of disease related to obesity?

Let's take a look…

There are many different types of artificial sweeteners

There are numerous artificial sweeteners available and the chemical structure varies among them.

What they all have in common is that they are incredibly effective in stimulating receptors of sweet taste in the tongue.

In fact, most are hundreds Sometimes sweeter than sugar, gram per gram.

Some of them (such as aspartame) contain calories, but the total amount needed to provide a sweet taste is so low that the calories you eat are negligible (1).

Here is a table that shows the most common artificial sweeteners, how sweet they are in relation to sugar, and the brands with which they are sold:

List of artificial sweeteners

Then there are other low calorie sweeteners that are processed from natural ingredients and, therefore, do not count as "artificial".

This includes natural zero-calorie stevia sweetener, as well as sugar alcohols such as xylitol, erythritol, sorbitol and mannitol. Sugar alcohols tend to have a sweetness similar to sugar but less than half the calories.

This article is strictly about the artificial Sweeteners … but you can read about the natives here.

Bottom line: There are many different types of artificial sweeteners. The most common are aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, neotame and acesulfame potassium.

Artificial sweeteners and appetite regulation.

Animals, including humans, not only look for food to meet their energy needs.

We also look for the so-called "reward" of food.

Foods sweetened with sugar trigger the release of chemicals and brain hormones, part of what is known as the "food reward" pathway (2, 3, 4, 5).

The "food reward" is crucial to feeling satisfied after eating and sharing brain circuits with addictive behaviors, including drugs (6, 7, 2).

While artificial sweeteners provide a sweet taste, many researchers believe that lack of calories prevents complete activation of the reward pathway of food.

This may be the reason why artificial sweeteners are related to an increase in appetite and sugary food cravings in some studies (8).

Magnetic images in 5 men showed that sugar consumption decreased signaling in the hypothalamus, the appetite regulator of the brain (9).

This response was not observed with the consumption of aspartame, which suggests that the brain does not record that artificial sweeteners have a satiating effect.

It may be that the sweetness without the calories leads to a greater behavior in the search for food, which increases the caloric intake in general.

But … there have also been studies where artificial sweeteners did it do not affects the appetite or caloric intake of other foods (10, 11).

In a 6-month study of 200 individuals, substitution of sugar-sweetened beverages with artificially sweetened beverages or water had no effect on food intake (12).

Bottom line: Some researchers believe that artificial sweeteners do not satisfy our biological sugar cravings in the same way as sugar and, therefore, could lead to an increase in food intake. However, the evidence is mixed.

Sweeteners and sugar cravings

Another argument that opposes artificial sweeteners is that unnatural sweetness encourages sugar cravings and sugar dependence.

This idea is logical considering that taste preferences in humans can be trained with repeated exposure (13).

For example, we know that reducing salt or fat for several weeks leads to a preference for lower levels of those nutrients (14, 15). The sweetness is not different.

While this is not proven, it seems to make sense. The more we eat sweet foods, the more we love them.

Bottom line: The strong sweetness of artificial sweeteners can make us depend on the sweet taste. This could increase our desire for sweet foods in general.

Observational studies on artificial sweeteners and body weight.

There have been many observational studies on artificial sweeteners.

This type of study takes a group of people and asks them about various factors, such as what they eat.

Then, many years later, they can see if a particular variable (such as the use of artificial sweeteners) was associated with a greater or lesser risk of disease.

These types of studies do not prove anything, but they can help us find patterns that warrant further investigation.

Several of these studies have found, paradoxically, that artificially sweetened beverages are related to weight. gain instead of weight loss (16).

However, the most recent review, which summarized the findings of 9 observational studies, found that artificial sweeteners were associated with a slightly higher BMI, but not with body weight or fat mass (17).

I must point out that this study was sponsored by the industry. It does not mean that the results are not valid, only that we should be very skeptical because the funding source of a study can often bias the results and the interpretation of the data (18).

That said … the correlation does not imply causality, so these studies do not prove anything in one way or another.

Fortunately, the effects of artificial sweeteners on body weight have also been studied in numerous controlled trials (real science).

Bottom line: Some observational studies have found that artificial sweeteners are related to weight gain, but the evidence is mixed.

Controlled trials on artificial sweeteners

Many clinical trials have concluded that artificial sweeteners are favorable for weight control (19, 20, 21, 22).

One of the largest trials examined 641 children aged 4 to 11 who had to drink 250 ml (8.5 ounces) of an artificially sweetened drink, or the same amount of a sugary drink every day for 18 months.

Children who were assigned artificially sweetened beverages gained significantly less weight and less fat than children who drank sugar (19).

The most recent review of 15 clinical trials found that replacing sugary drinks with their artificially sweetened versions can result in a moderate weight loss of approximately 1.8 pounds (0.8 kg), on average (17).

Two other recent reviews led to similar findings (23, 24).

So … according to the best The available evidence, artificial sweeteners seem to be slightly effective in losing weight.

They certainly do not seem to cause weight gain, at least not on average.

Bottom line: Numerous controlled trials have studied the effects of artificial sweeteners on body weight. On average, replacing sweetened beverages with sugar with diet drinks can cause a weight loss of approximately 2 pounds.

Artificial sweeteners and metabolic health

Having said all this, health is much more than weight.

There are some observational studies (again, studies that do not try out anything) linking the consumption of artificial sweeteners to metabolic diseases.

This includes an increased risk of metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Sometimes the results are quite amazing … for example, one study found that diet sodas were associated with a 121% higher risk of type 2 diabetes (25).

Another study found that these beverages were linked to a 34% higher risk of metabolic syndrome (26).

This is supported by a recent high-profile study of artificial sweeteners, which shows that they caused an alteration in the intestinal bacterial environment and induced glucose intolerance in both rats and humans (27).

It is known that bacteria in the intestine (intestinal flora) are incredibly important for health (28, 29, 30).

It is necessary to study more thoroughly if artificial sweeteners cause problems by altering intestinal bacteria, but it seems that may be a cause for concern

Bring the message home

Replacing sugar with artificial sweeteners may be helpful in reducing body weight, but Only very slightly at best.

Its consumption certainly does not seem to cause weight gain, at least not in the short term.

At the end of the day, artificial sweeteners are not "toxic" as some people think they are, but I am not convinced that they are perfectly safe either.

The investigation goes both ways … and the decision on its use must be individual.

If you are healthy, happy and satisfied with the results you are getting Y If you use artificial sweeteners … then there is no need to change anything. If it is not broke, do not fix it.

However … if you suffer from cravings, poor glycemic control or some mysterious health problem, avoiding artificial sweeteners may be one of the many things to consider.

Different styles for different people.

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