Artificial Sweeteners & Weight Loss

Trying to lose weight?  You may be damaging your efforts with sugar-free products and diet soda.  Evidence shows that the use of no-calorie sweeteners may actually make it harder for people to control their food intake and inevitably sabotage your weight loss goals.

Research done by Davidson and Swithers, members of the Ingestive Behavior Research department at Purdue University, shows that the use of saccharin actually changes the body's ability to regulate food intake. Very early in life, we learn that sweet flavors signal high calories. "The body's natural ability to regulate food intake and body weight may be weakened when this natural relationship is impaired by artificial sweeteners," said Davidson, who is an expert in behavioral neuroscience.

When we prepare to eat under normal circumstances, our metabolic rate begins to speed up. According to the experiments conducted by Davidson and Swithers, rats that had been consuming saccharin (a no-calorie sweetener) showed a smaller rise in their core body temperature after eating a sweet-tasting, high calorie meal relative to rats consuming glucose (the simplest form of regular sugar). The researchers attribute that the slower metabolic response led to overeating and made it harder for the saccharin rats to burn off excess calories. The conclusion of their research indicated that consuming food sweetened with a no-calorie sugar substitute can lead to greater body-weight gain and the increased production of fat tissue than simply consuming food sweetened with regular sugar. (Journal article: "A Role for Sweet Taste: Calorie Predictive Relations in Energy Regulation by Rats," Susan E. Swithers, Ph.D. and Terry L. Davidson, Ph.D.; Purdue University; Behavioral Neuroscience, Vol. 122, No. 1.)

Yikes! Although this research was done on rats and not on humans it’s hard to deny that their evidence matches emerging reports that show people who consume diet drinks are at a higher risk for obesity and a collection of other medical problems such as increased abdominal fat, high blood pressure and insulin resistance which contributes to the onset of diabetes.

The bottom line is this. If you are trying to lose weight, you should be trying to trade your bad eating habits for good ones. If you want to live a healthy lifestyle, water should be your #1 source for liquid. This is can seem a bit unrealistic if you are used to consuming everything "but" when you grab a drink, so instead of swapping your regular soda for diet, just start by cutting back. Instead of having a soda every day, try knocking it back to 3 cans per week and keep a large bottle of water with you at all times to keep you quenched.

I always advocate starting with easy wins when trying to make changes, no matter what your goal may be. You are less likely to give up when you can achieve results quickly. Just remember to give yourself time, and for goodness sake…stay away from the diet soda!

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