Sugar Substitutes - which are safe, which are suspiciousIn the effort to purge pounds, millions of people have made the switch from regular sugar to no-calorie artificial sweeteners. But does the fact that they’re calorie-free mean that they’re also consequence-free, when it comes to gaining weight? New research is showing that no-calorie artificial sweeteners may not be the harmless treats they claim themselves to be. Not only are they not part of the weight-loss solution, but they may even be part of the problem, amplifying our cravings, meddling with hormonal responses and ultimately contributing to weight gain after all.

Artificial Sweeteners that Contain Aspartame 

Various research studies have shown that artificial calorie-free and low-calorie sweeteners like aspartame can actually stimulate your appetite, make you crave carbohydrates and increase fat storage. The result? Weight gain. Here’s another shocker: recent studies have shown that aspartame can cause even greater weight gain than sugar – so much for making choices that support your weight loss goals.

One reason for this is that the two amino acids that comprise 90% of aspartame – phenylalanine and aspartic acid – stimulate the speedy release of insulin and leptin, hormones involved with metabolism regulation, fat storage and feelings of satiety.

Many people trying to achieve weight loss grab artificially sweetened foods with the belief that they’re making a health-smart choice, but these “diet” options can be misleading. These artificial sweeteners are also marketed as being excellent options for diabetics, but aspartame has actually been shown to worsen insulin sensitivity.

Which artificial sweeteners contain aspartame? A whole bunch: NutraSweet, Equal, NatraSweet, Canderel, Spoonfuls, and DiabetiSweet. Aspartame accounts for over three quarters of the negative reactions to food additives that are reported to the FDA. A professor of neurology at the Medical University of Mississippi, Dr. Russell L. Blaylock, published an entire book highlighting the extensive damage that can be caused by ingesting excessive aspartic acid from aspartame. Some of these reactions are severe, including seizures and death. Other reported side effects include headaches, memory loss, abdominal pain, heart palpitations, vision problems, arthritis, seizures and…weight gain!

147335143Artificial Sweeteners that Contain Sucralose

Researchers at Washington School of Medicine in St. Louis found that sucralose — one of the most common artificial sweeteners, found in Splenda — may actually change the way your body reacts to regular glucose (sugar). Seventeen non-diabetic obese individuals were given glucose tests, during which participants drink a solution of glucose (sugar), and then have their blood sugar levels examined an hour or two later. The glucose test was then given again, but this time, the participants were given a solution containing sucralose to drink before drinking the sugar solution. When blood sugar levels were measured a second time, the researchers found that they skyrocketed 20 percent higher than when the participants had drank only sugar without sucralose.

While artificial sweeteners that contain sucralose typically have a mild effect on insulin, they amplify the body’s response to other sources of sugar to dangerously high levels. Higher blood sugar levels trigger more aggressive insulin hormone responses in the body, inevitably leading to more fat storage.

Artificial Sweeteners that Contain Saccharin and Acesulfame Potassium

A scientific review published in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine explored the neurobiology behind sweet cravings, as well as the impact that artificial sweeteners have on our ability to control our appetites.

The study showed that when you eat real sugar, your body is able to determine that it has had enough calories and activates a feeling of fullness. When you consume a no-calorie sweetener, your appetite is triggered by the sweetness. You body waits (…and waits…and waits) for the calories to come, but they never do. This leads to continuous cravings, encouraging you to continue reaching for more and more food, and ultimately, stacking on unwanted pounds anyway. While aspartame exhibits this effect the strongest, artificial sweeteners like saccharin and acesulfame potassium also exhibit them, shutting off your body’s natural, protective responses to food intake, promoting unconscious over-eating, and ultimately resulting in weight gain.

While artificial sweeteners continue to be promoted as the calorie-free and guilt-free solution to your sweet cravings, beware that, in reality, they are far from consequence free. Despite what the market tries to sell you, refuse to buy into the idea that you can eat as much as you want of anything without having to deal with the effects.

57302776Our Lean on Sweeteners

Don’t be scared to give in to your sweet tooth every now and then – but steer clear of chemicals and refined sweeteners, and satisfy your craving with what your body is actually asking for instead: naturally sweet treats, like whole fruit, dried fruit, or even a dash of honey. Rather than relying on artificial sweeteners, rely on moderation instead, as that is the only true way to enjoy what life has to offer safely, without guilt and without negative consequences.