Sweeteners and Weight Gain

When scientific advances created artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose, obesity was expected to become a thing of the past. However, research shows that these artificial aids may in fact cause weight gain rather than countering it.

Artificial Sweeteners may Cause Dieters to Eat More
Splenda's very clever advertising as a sugar product hides the fact that it contains two molecules found in sugar and combines them with chlorine to create something that is 600 times sweeter than sugar. Aside from the fact that in large doses this can be harmful to the body, researchers found that although taking artificial sweeteners added negligible calories (around 4 calories per packet of Splenda), it did lead to an overall increase in food intake by increasing the appetite.

According to a report in the Journal of Obesity, researchers divided 14 women into three groups. One group was given four drinks of lemonade sweetened with sugar (sucralose), the second group had the same amount of lemonade sweetened with aspartame, and the third group drank carbonated mineral water. After three days of this regimen the researchers looked at what each group of women ate the following day. Those who drank aspartame-sweetened lemonade consumed more calories than the other two groups, and the majority of those extra calories came from carbohydrates.

Prior to the test, the women showed no difference in their calorie intake and appetite, but the aspartame seemed to create a subconscious craving for calorie-laden carbohydrates. This meant that overall the women tested actually consumed more total calories by having artificially sweetened drinks than if they had stuck to sugar.

Splenda vs. Sugar
A further study at Duke University did its own research on rats over a 12-week period. One group of rats was fed yoghurt sweetened with sugar while another group ate yoghurt sweetened with calorie-free saccharin. Those rats given artificially sweetened yoghurt were found to consume more calories and gain more weight than the group that ate higher-calorie sugar-sweetened yoghurt. The rats given saccharin were also found to have less healthy intestinal bacteria and showed a poor absorption rate of prescription drugs.

As part of the experiment, the core body temperature was compared in the two groups of rats. Those animals on sugar saw a natural rise in body temperature, allowing the body to burn off extra calories, while those on saccharin did not. This response may lead to a habit of overeating, as it made it harder for the saccharin-fed rats to burn off sweet-tasting calories later.

This result backed up other studies that found that people who regularly drank diet sodas were at higher risk of obesity than those who did not.

The conclusion was that calorie-free sweeteners appear to create a craving for carbohydrates which leads to eating more food overall and gaining weight. With poorer intestinal health and an inability to absorb health-promoting drugs, it seems that artificial sweeteners may actually be doing more harm than good.


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