The diet industry hauls in billions of dollars in profits each year. In the quest for perfection, many of us turn to calorie-counting in order to lose weight. This has made zero-calorie sweeteners explode in popularity.
Nearly half of American adults consume artificial sweeteners on a daily basis. Not because of their taste, but for their lack of calories. However, research is now showing that not only do artificial sweeteners prevent weight loss, they can actually encourage weight gain!
Researchers at the University of Manitoba found that artificial, zero-calorie sweeteners had no consistent link to decreased body weight. Neither were there reductions in body mass index (BMI) or waist size. Instead, artificial sweeteners were linked to increased risk of weight gain. Yikes!
What causes the weight gain? Artificial sweeteners prompt ‘reward' signals in the brain. Just like with real sugar, the brain can become dependent and crave more. This can lead to increased consumption of higher calorie foods, causing weight gain.
Our taste buds can be deadened by artificial sweeteners. They affect our sense of what tastes ‘sweet' and what does not. We can then be more likely to consume foods that contain sugar, making it nearly impossible to manage diabetes.
Thirdly, individuals think that with a zero-calorie sweetener, they have calories to spare. This can encourage indulgence in foods (and portion sizes.) Quite frankly, packing on pounds has never sounded easier.
If you think you're in the clear because you drink your coffee black without sweetener… think again. Do you drink diet soda?
Many diabetics turn to ‘diet' sodas because they do not contain ‘sugar.' However, research found no difference in diabetes risk between those who consumed the ‘diet' drink and those who consumed a beverage sweetened with actual sugar.
Let's state that again. There was no reduction in diabetes risk between individuals who consume sugar-sweetened drinks and those who consume artificially sweetened drinks. Instead, researchers found that those who drink artificially-sweetened beverages have double the risk of developing metabolic syndrome.
Metabolic syndrome is an extremely dangerous condition consisting of high blood sugar, elevated blood pressure, unstable cholesterol levels, and excess body fat around the waist. Metabolic syndrome greatly increases one's risk of heart attack, cardiovascular disease, and stroke.
Just one diet beverage per day triggered high blood pressure in women, and increased their risk for heart disease (the number one cause of death for women in the U.S.) Risk of heart attack was equal among those who drank traditional sugar sweetened beverages and those who drank artificially sweetened ones.
So with all of this research, how have artificial sweeteners remained so popular? People still think they are making a ‘healthier choice.' The happy, cheerfully colorful commercials certainly aren't helping.
The manufacturers couldn't be happier. They've spent millions in marketing their products as healthy alternatives to sugar. Their wallets are padded, while our risk for deadly heathy issues skyrockets. So, what's the answer?
There are safe choices; natural zero-calorie sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit. The biggest key to long-term weight loss is simple – eat real food. Clean, quality foods make the true difference. One that artificial or ‘diet' foods never could.