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Artificial Sweeteners: Friend or Foe?



Early in my career, I noticed a common trend among those who used artificial sweeteners and difficulty losing weight. So, I started doing some research on it. At the time there wasn’t a lot of solid research available. But today we have a foundation of research to show in the quest for healthier eating habits and weight management, individuals who turn to artificial sweeteners as a way to satisfy their sweet tooth without the added calories of sugar can have not only trouble losing weight but a host of other challenges as well.

Sugar substitutes are found in a wide range of products, from diet sodas to sugar-free snacks. However, research suggests that artificial sweeteners are not the miracle solution for appetite control that they appear to be. In this blog, we'll explore how artificial sweeteners can actually undermine your best efforts to control your appetite and make healthier dietary choices.


Misleading Taste Signals

Artificial sweeteners are intensely sweet and can trick your taste buds into expecting a high-calorie sugar rush. When you consume these sweeteners, your body anticipates the incoming calories. However, since artificial sweeteners are devoid of calories, this disconnect between the taste and the actual caloric content can lead to increased cravings for sweet, calorie-dense foods. Artificial sweeteners, instead of reducing caloric intake, can actually make those who use them feel hungrier and tend to eat more. Animal studies show that after chronic exposure to a diet containing artificial sweetener, sucralose, animals began eating significantly more.[1] Artificial sweeteners can disrupt the body's ability to regulate caloric intake by confusing the brain's reward system and reduces the rate at which you burn calories.[2] This can ultimately sabotage your attempts to control your appetite and make healthier food choices during the holidays.


Altered Reward Pathways

Artificial sweeteners might alter the brain's reward pathways, making you less satisfied with the sweetness of natural foods. This can result in cravings for sweeter, less nutritious options, as your brain seeks the intensity of sweetness it associates with artificial sweeteners.[3],[4],[5] As a result, you may find it more challenging to enjoy the natural sweetness of fruits or other healthy foods.

Disrupted Gut Microbiome

Emerging research has shown that artificial sweeteners can negatively affect the composition of your gut microbiome, the community of microorganisms in your digestive system. Changes in the gut microbiome can influence your metabolism and appetite regulation, and the health of your entire body, and can potentially lead to increased hunger and food cravings, glucose intolerance, and increased food consumption.[6]


Overcompensation for Calories

Consuming artificial sweeteners can give you a false sense of security, making you believe that you have "saved" calories by avoiding sugar. As a result, you might be more likely to overcompensate by consuming extra calories from other sources, believing that you have room in your daily calorie budget. This compensation can lead to increased calorie intake and hinder your appetite control efforts.[7]


While artificial sweeteners may seem like a convenient way to enjoy sweet flavors without the extra calories, they can sabotage your best attempts to control your appetite and make healthier dietary choices. The misleading taste signals and change in metabolism rate, altered reward pathways, disrupted gut microbiome, and calorie overcompensation associated with artificial sweeteners can undermine your efforts to maintain your health goal throughout the holiday season.

I have found once individuals are willing to dispense with artificial sweeteners within three to ten days, following the recommendations of my program, they have success with weight loss and start achieving their health goals!


Instead of relying on artificial sweeteners, consider using the essential of health, temperance (meaning, using in moderation that which is good, and abstaining from that which is harmful), and being consciously aware of what you are eating, as more effective strategies for managing your appetite and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.


Should you need some extra support throughout the holiday season, we are in your corner and will be happy to help you! Click link below to get started getting the help you need!


References:

[1] University of Sydney. “Why artificial sweeteners can increase appetite.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 July 2016.

[2] Green, E. & Murphy, C. (2012). Altered processing of sweet taste in the brain of diet soda drinkers. Physiology & Behavior.

[3] Swithers, S. E. (2013). Artificial sweeteners produce the counterintuitive effect of inducing metabolic derangements. Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism.

[4] Cell Press. “The dark side of artificial sweeteners: Expert reviews negative impact.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 July 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130710122000.htm>

[5] The University of Sydney. “Why artificial sweeteners can increase appetite.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 July 2016.

[6] Ren, Y. et al. (2020). Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota. Nature.

[7] Tate, D. F. et al. (2012). Replacing caloric beverages with water or diet beverages for weight loss in adults: main results of the Choose Healthy Options Consciously Everyday (CHOICE) randomized clinical trial. Obesity.

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