Yet another medical study suggests that "diet" drinks and foods just aren’t an effective weight loss tool.
More specifically, this new study — from researchers at Purdue University — reveal that artificially sweetened foods may make you gain — rather than lose — weight. What’s more, you could pack on body fat to boot.
Not only that, but these fake sugar substitutes many cause more weight gain than sugar.
Pretty compelling findings, right?
But don’t take this as license to ditch the sugar substitutes and go for the sugar instead. (As readers of SUGAR SHOCK! know, I’m not a fan of large quantities of sugar or artificial sweeteners.)
The new study — which can be read in the current issue of the American Psychological Association’s Behavioral Neuroscience — found that rats fed yogurt sweetened with the artificial sweetener saccharin gained body weight and body fat.
In fact, the researchers conclude their data indicate that "consumption of products containing artificial sweeteners may lead to increased body weight and obesity by interfering with fundamental homeostatic, physiological processes."
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard such artificial-sweeteners-can-make-you-gain-weight conclusions from study co-authors Susan E. Swithers, Ph.D., an associate professor, and Terry Davidson, a professor, both in the psychological services department at Purdue University.
Back in April 2004, in a paper called, "A Pavlovian Approach to the Problem of Obesity," which appeared in the International Journal of Obesity — she and colleague Terry Davidson discussed two more studies showing that artificial sweeteners may disrupt the body’s natural ability to "count" calories based on foods’ sweetness.
Interestingly, these studies rely on the idea that like Pavlov’s dogs, which salivated at the sound of a bell (because they expected food even if none was in sight), these rats fed artificial sweeteners tend to anticipate lots of calories when they taste something sweet.
So, with the new study, when the rats ate saccharin-sweetened food containing no calories, the rats ate more and gained weight nonetheless.
"The animals that had the artificial sweetener appear to have a different anticipatory response," Dr. Swithers told Alice Park of TIME magazine.
"They don’t anticipate as many calories arriving. The net result is a more sluggish metabolism that stores, rather than burns, incoming excess calories," Dr. Swithers continues.
In fact, this study suggests hat artificial sweeteners "somehow disrupt the body’s ability to regulate incoming calories," TIME’s Park wrote.
"It’s still a bit of a mystery why they are overeating, but we definitely have evidence that the animals getting artificially sweetened yogurt end up eating more calories than the ones getting calorically sweetened yogurt," Dr. Swithers told Park.
This idea of gaining weight on artificial sweeteeners is nothing new. In fact, in my book, SUGAR SHOCK!, I quoted Ralph G. Walton, M.D., then professor and chairman of the psychiatry dpeartment at Northeastern Ohio University’s’ College of Medicine. He discovered this "paradoxical increase in appetitite in numerous studies" involving artificial sweeteners.
For instance, he cited one study of 80,000 women conducted for the American Cancer Society, which found that artificial sweetener users gained more wieght than non-users. And another study in the International Journey of Obesity found that rats fed saccharin-sweeetened drinks ate three times more calories than rodents given sugar.
Other research has come out in the last few years, too. For instance, in June 2005 (when this blog was brand new), I wrote about one startling study, which examined eight years of data on 1,550 Americans and found that diet soda drinkers gained weight rather than lost it.
At the time, what surprised researchers was that the risk of later becoming overweight or obese increased 41 percent for every can or bottle of diet soft drink a person consumed each day.
"What didn’t surprise us was that total soft drink use was linked to overweight and obesity," Sharon P. Fowler, M.P.H. of the University of Texas Health Science Center then told WebMDHealth.
"What was surprising was when we looked at people only drinking diet soft drinks, their risk of obesity was even higher," adds Fowler, who presented the data at the annual meeting of the American Diabetes Association in San Diego.
Then there was another study from September of last year, which found when children consume diet foods and beverages, you just might be pre-programming them for later obesity.
I have so many questions when it comes to artificial sweeteners.
Firstly, isn’t it interesting that as sales of low-calorie candy has soared, so has obesity?
Likewise, isn’t it curious that this trend of drinking artificially sweetened sodas coincides with the fattening of America?
Can one rightly asssume, then, that "diet drinks" and foods hinder rather than promote weight loss and control?
Granted this is anecdotal, but why is it when you talk to people who’ve gotten off beverages with artificial sweeteners that they inevitably tell you that the weight has dropped right off?
And why do Americans assume that artificial sweeteners are any better than sugar?
- For that matter, why do Americans feel compelled to gravitate towards these chemically produced, made-in-the-lab, "fake" sweeteners as a way of weaning off of sugar?
The fact remains: These beverages and foods don’t come from Mother Nature. They’re unnatural. They’re not real, wholesome food. They’re non-nutrititive. They’re even sweeeter than what you’d find in nature.
What’s more, artificial sweeteners are chemically produced in a lab through a multi-step, complicated process. Isn’t it safe to say that artificial sweeteners have more in common with an inedible cardboard box than real food?
So why should it come as any surprise that our bodies get confused and tricked when we consume the stuff? In fact, I believe that the farther you go from nature, the more you run the risk of problems galore.
The long and the short of it is this: Artificial sweeteners are NOT a quick diet remedy.