Many people choose low-calorie, sweetened foods and beverages to lose weight. But Purdue University researchers found that products like diet sodas and sports drinks that include artificial sweeteners might be causing weight gain instead.
Why? Because when we drink a sugary drink or eat a sugary food, our bodies naturally expect lots of calories to be attached, and it revs our systems up to deal with them. However, when we consume products with a sweet taste and few calories, the result is a metabolism that stores, rather than burns calories, and that wants even more of them.
The Purdue study was clear: lab animals given artificial sweeteners continually increased their calorie intake and body fat. And after a while, their natural response to eating sugary foods (eating less at the next meal and using some of the excess calories to warm their bodies) was lost.
Human studies have shown a similar effect. A 2005 University of Texas Health Science Center survey found that for every can of diet soda people consumed each day, there was a 41 percent increased risk of being overweight.
Artificial sweeteners may not work – and are they even safe?
The five Food and Drug Administration-approved nonnutritive (meaning non-natural) sweeteners are saccharin (Sweet’N Low, SugarTwin), aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet), acesulfame potassium (Sunett, Sweet One), sucralose (Splenda), and neotame. These sweeteners are regulated as food additives and are evaluated by the FDA based on their safety, stability and qualities like clean sweet taste, no bitterness, odorless, etc.
Although they are FDA approved, whether these artificial sweeteners are entirely safe is not confirmed. Many studies have been conducted, some indicating health concerns like allergic reactions, migraines and cancer, some not, and the medical community appears to be divided about their use. Additionally, recent studies have found a significantly increased risk of stroke and heart attack in daily diet soda drinkers.
To find out if artificial sweeteners are affecting your weight, try eliminating them from your diet. Be cautious, however, about adding back too much real sugar, as excess sugar can lead to diabetes and heart disease even independent of its effect on weight. Instead of diet drinks, use True Citrus products in water, teas, or seltzer. Our unsweetend products contain 0 calories, 0g sugar, and no preservatives, artificial flavors, or sweeteners. Our sweetened products only contain 10 calories per serving, and are sweetened by the natural Stevia leaf.
Those who are used to the extreme sweetness of the artificial products may have strong sugar cravings initially, but these should diminish over time.