Over time, the sugar-free substitutions have seen a lot of change, new names, new brands, and one claims to be just that slight bit better than the one that came before, but it may surprise you to learn that none of them are a great substitute at all, and have been proven many times over by scholars and scientists to cause weight gain, rather than help to shed the weight. Isn’t this counter-intuitive? If the entire point is to lose weight and make better food choices by going sugar-free, how is this artificial sweetener doing us any favors? You’re actually better off using honey or coconut sugar, or stick with smaller amounts of regular sugars. Real foods have always, and will always be better for you than any substitute.
This study by Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, published on the US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, points out a direct rise in obesity linked with the use of non-caloric artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose, which many top brands are derived from. The study says not only is it making us gain weight, but it’s also giving us no energy, as well as changing how our brain is responding to the lack of sugars. Artificial sweeteners are as bad as margarine, they’re not recognized as actual food by your brain, or your body, and because it’s not a usable calorie, your body is convinced you need more food and helps you out by padding your body with some fat storage because it is convinced you’re not getting adequate nutrition. This also leads to binging after prolonged periods without sugars, and that translates to “falling off the wagon” in terms of dieting.
This article from the American Psychological Association, based off a study done by Purdue University’s Ingestive Behavior Research Center discovered a few other problematic concerns with artifical sweeteners. Normally when preparing to eat, our metabolic processes speed up, resulting in a rise in body temperature. In the study, rats ate more after smaller rises in core body temperatures from sweet tasting but zero calorie foods. Though the study was done with rats rather than humans, there were other reasons they believed it could be stated with certainty to apply to humans as well. This was also backed with other research done by various studies like this one from Harvard Health Publications, Harvard Medical School. This points out that the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association have both cautiously said it might be alright to use these in place of sugar to help reduce overall sugars in your diet, it is purely from the stance of heart disease risk, and diabetes. Both associations have also stated it doesn’t mean that drinking diet soda means you can eat cake.
The FDA has approved five fake sugars: saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame and sucralose. They have also allowed the natural sweetener stevia as well. What is complex is how our bodies and brains translate this false sweetness. Though the researchers at Harvard point out that part of the study relied on animal test results, they have proven that animals find these false sweeteners highly addictive. With rats given cocaine, then given a choice between intravenous cocaine or oral saccharin, most chose the saccharin. More addictive even than cocaine? That’s a huge problem. This means breaking a diet soda habit can be much harder than we think, and all that diet soda is doing is making us eat more calories to make up for the fact that we’re drinking it at all. They also report issues with safety concerns, excepting cancer. They have said more testing needs to be done long-term with high consumption levels to really know what the chemicals can do to us. What they CAN prove though, is that diet drinks are associated with a 36% greater risk for metabolic syndrome, and a 67% increased risk for type II diabetes.
Dr. David Ludwig, who is an obesity and weight loss specialist at Harvard-affiliated Boston Children’s Hospital says this about the issue: “Sugar-containing foods in their natural form, whole fruit, for example, tend to be highly nutritious – nutrient-dense, high in fiber, and low in glycemic load. On the other hand, refined, concentrated sugar consumed in large amounts rapidly increases blood glucose and insulin levels, increases triglycerides, inflammatory mediators and oxygen radicals, and with them, the risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other chronic illnesses”.
If you’re thinking Truvia is safe because it’s not on the list of bad guys, think again. This piece written by Dietician Cassie explains further if you’d like to read it in its entirety, but to sum it up, Truvia is not stevia. What it is, is a clever marketing gimmick. It sounds like stevia so you’ll associate it with stevia. The ingredients are: Erythritol, Rebiana and Natural Flavors. Though stevia might be within one of the “natural flavors” it’s anyone’s guess what’s in there. The real truth here, is that Truvia is a sugar alcohol at 99.9% pure, and less than half a percent from anything made from stevia to keep them from outright lying to their consumers. Again, points are made that outline why artificial sweeteners are bad for metabolic reasons, and also the recommendation to just stick with real sugar, or pure stevia, but to cut back the sugar consumption overall.