Artificial sweeteners seem like the perfect way to have your cake and eat it too! The most popular of these sugar alternatives are Zero-Calorie Sweeteners that are supposed to let you enjoy sweet treats without any of those pesky calories.
Until very recently, it was taken for granted that most artificial sweeteners cannot cause weight gain as they contain zero calories… but, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
Several studies now show that artificial sweeteners will not help you lose weight and “diet” soda is certainly not the solution for obesity.
How Artificial Sweeteners Can Make You Fat
It does appear to be a contradiction in terms – a zero calorie sweetener that makes you gain weight. However, there is a lot about artificial sweeteners that we still do not understand – including their mechanism of action and their exact impact on health. The one thing that is clear though is that people who use artificial sweeteners regularly are as obese as people who use sugar.
Although the precise reasons for weight gain with artificial sweeteners are not known, scientists offer us 3 plausible theories:
1. Artificial Sweeteners Create A Craving For “Real” Sugar
“Artificial sweeteners confuse your brain signals, leading to increased insulin production – without sugar to metabolize, however, this simply increases cravings for food with actual sugar!”
When you consume any food or beverage that contains artificial sugars, the link between your brain and digestive system gets warped. Your taste buds send signals to your brain that identify the food as “sweet”, resulting in the transmission of signals to your digestive system to produce insulin.
Insulin is used to metabolize and store sugar, so when your digestive system does not receive the sugar it was prepared to digest, it increases your desire to eat food that contains “actual” sugar.
2. Artificial Sweeteners Trigger Nutrient Over-Absorption
“Artificial sweeteners affect gut microbes in a way we do not fully understand, increasing their efficiency at absorbing certain nutrients – possibly increasing calorie intake”
Our bodies only digest and absorb a portion of the nutrients we ingest. The human digestive system depends on tens of trillions of microbes within it to help break down nutrients so that they can be easily absorbed by the body.
Artificial sweeteners impact these microbes in ways we do not fully understand, but they can make the gut more efficient at absorbing certain nutrients, thereby increasing the risk of weight gain.
3. Artificial Sweeteners & Cognitive Distortion
“Dieters mistakenly believe that since they are ‘saving calories’ on their diet soda they are entitled to binge on high-calorie foods”
Cognitive distortion is a term used to describe the process in which we use unreliable information to convince ourselves that something is rational and accurate. In this context, people believe that artificial sweeteners will not make them gain weight, giving them license to eat other foods!
They mistakenly believe that since they are “saving calories” on their diet soda they are justified in bingeing on high-calorie foods.
Conflicting Research: Food Industry Giants “Buy” Science
“Analysis of the studies involving the safety of aspartame showed that 92% of independent studies found a potential health risk while 100% of industry-funded aspartame studies claimed it was safe!”
There seems to be a mountain of conflicting research papers – each one with an opposing viewpoint; while some show that artificial sweeteners are linked to an increased risk of belly fat, other studies concluded that there is no link between these sugar substitutes and weight gain.
So how do we know which “scientific fact” is true?
The picture becomes a lot clearer when we take into account who funded these studies.
The most popular artificial sweetener in the market today is Aspartame. Since the 70s there have been numerous studies on the health effects of this sugar substitute, but most of them had diametrically opposed results.
A recent analysis of the studies involving the safety of aspartame showed that 92% of the independent studies identified a potential health risk while 100% of the industry-funded aspartame studies supported the safety of aspartame.
Going by the information we now have, it’s pretty obvious that the food industry giants simply threw money at a problem to make it go away… and it actually worked until now!