Artificial sweeteners are an interesting creation. They stimulate our taste buds and tell our brains that we're tasting something sweet and there's no calories. That's why they're so frequently used in "diet sodas" and other foods made for specific low carb, low calorie diets like Keto. All the good stuff without any of the bad, right?
Well, recent studies have shown some conflicting results. It's true that you can lose weight replacing real sugar or sucrose with artificial sweeteners. One 18 month study showed that a group consuming drinks with artificial sugar lost nearly 2 pounds compared to the group that consumed sugary drinks. So yes, artificial sugar can help with weight control.
But that's just one side of the story. Artificial sweeteners also effect different areas of our brain and how our bodies process sugar. This is where artificial sweeteners can lead to weight gain and even type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and metabolic syndrome.
One study indicated that drinks sweetened with sucralose, an artificial sweetener, increased appetite or cravings compared to drinks sweetened with sucrose and just plain water. Those who consumed the sucralose experienced increased brain activity responsible for appetite and decreased hormone levels responsible for feeling full. These responses led the group to eat more, which can lead to weight gain.
Another study showed increased levels of insulin for those who consumed an artificial sweetener to those who did not. The theory is that the body is tricked into thinking sugar is coming so it primes itself to process and metabolize sugar by releasing insulin and raising blood sugar levels. But when real sugar never comes, our bodies get confused. Our brains might be telling our bodies that sugar is coming, but since it didn't arrive last time, it's not sure if it will this time or the next. The unnecessary spikes in blood sugar levels, or lack of, can lead to chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes.
To note, studies do show different results based on the type of artificial sweetener. There are a lot of them out there like saccharin, aspartame, and neotame. They all impact our brains and bodies in different ways. Sucralose is just one of many artificial sweeteners we can find in our foods.
We think it's fine to consume artificial sweeteners. Just do it in moderation and definitely don't think it's some magic weight loss elixir. Once in a while doesn't hurt and most studies seem to imply that health problems come up over long periods of consistent consumption.
Good health is a lifestyle. There's no cutting corners on this. =)
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