Are artificial sweeteners the best weight loss tool of all time? ;-)
Are artificial sweeteners the best
weight loss tool of all time? ;-)
If you use artificial sweeteners to avoid gaining weight, you’re not only wasting your time but also possibly (actually let’s make that probably) causing future health problems, according to a bunch of recent studies. As always, I recommend doing a Pubmed search to get the details. But it might make you a little depressed, or maybe mad.
A few of these studies have found that not only do aspartame and sucralose NOT prevent weight gain, they also raise the risk of diseases in people who use them regularly.
Some research even shows long term use of artificial sweeteners leads to weight gain.
That is actually BRILLIANT marketing.
Let’s make a product and say it is supposed to help with something and actually make it do the opposite of what it’s supposed to do. It becomes a vicious cycle!
Recent research shows about a quarter of children and more than 40 percent of adults in the United States consume artificial sweeteners daily. A very sad statistic but also interesting when its estimated that over 20% of children are now obese and almost exactly 40% of adults are obese.
So that kind of begs the question. Are they obese because of these products or do they consume these products because they are obese? My answer is YES.
Some people eat them purposefully in the mistaken belief that is better for their health. Many others, however, are unwittingly consuming them in everyday food products. And, many times they are cleverly disguised.
Artificial sweeteners hiding in many foods
Artificial sweeteners are hiding in many foods unbeknownst to most people. These products are not always clearly labeled and some are even labeled with misleading claims such as “natural ingredients.” Clever little buggers!
While we expect to find artificial sweeteners in foods labeled “light,” “reduced sugars,” “diet,” and “sugar-free,” they also show up in “smart” popcorn, granola bars, yogurt, and even a popular pediatric electrolyte drink that rhymes with “poopyflight”.
Artificial sweeteners linked to obesity; disease
Studies also suggest long term use of artificial sweeteners leads to weight gain and chronic diseases such as diabetes, and heart disease.
Participants in a randomized trial who used artificial sweeteners as part of their weight loss program were shown to have an increase in their body mass index, a 14 percent higher chance of developing type 2 diabetes, and a 32 percent higher chance of developing heart disease. Sounds like a winner to me!
Lobbyists for the artificial sweetener industry and researchers agree other variables need to be considered and more research needs to be done. Of course they do. They are never going to say its bad for you. But I will!
Why artificial sweeteners cause weight gain
One reason it’s believed these fake sweeteners lead to weight gain and obesity-related health risks is because they trigger sugar cravings that a person eventually gives into and actually causes them to eat more “food” that you shouldn’t be eating.
Another theory suggests that consuming foods with artificial sweeteners leads a person to feel “virtuous” and thus justified in overindulging later. They think that because they ate this “lite” or that “sugar-free” thing that now they can splurge since they ate soooo healthy before.
Animal studies show artificial sweeteners trick the brain into thinking you’ve eaten sugar, which can trigger inflammatory cascades and disease.
Artificial sweeteners also alter the gut microbiome in a way that promotes obesity, diabetes, inflammation and more weight gain. And we all know the gut is the keystone to good health right? Or at least now you do.
Functional medicine approach to sweeteners
So what’s a gal or guy to do? I’m so glad you asked.
Number one, just don’t use them. If you are going to go after something sweet, my moto is like the Nike moto, “just do it”. Go get the real stuff. Keep it limited and under control but use sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup, raw sugar, organic raw honey, or agave. I have included a link to some of the most common ones I use and recommend. This is not a recommendation to use these everyday.
As a little side note on sweeteners, I’m personally not a huge fan of Stevia either. I’m not necessarily against it right now, but I just haven’t seen enough evidence or studies on it. Not to mention it is a biofilm disruptor that can be used in the treatment of gut issues and even Lyme disease. Check out my GI webinar series for a little more info on that subject.
In functional medicine, we see time and time again that people naturally lose their cravings for sugar and starchy carbs when they eat a whole foods diet that stabilizes blood sugar, lowers inflammation, and promotes brain health.
You won’t feel drawn to regular use of artificial sweeteners when you have no cravings for sweets in the first place. Ask my office how we can help.
I’m Dr. Craig Mortensen
Be healthy, be happy!