What you need to know about substitute sugars. Do you use an artificial sweetener in your morning coffee? Perhaps you use it to top off a bowl of cereal, oatmeal or berries? Maybe you even use faux sugar for baking purposes. While you may think you’re opting for a better choice than real sugar and all its calories, the opposite could be true.
Recent research suggests that using sugar substitutes may actually cause you to gain weight!
OH NO! Can that really be true?
Well, maybe . . . or maybe not.
Researchers from the Ingestive Behavior Research Center at Purdue University have reported that the artificial sweetener, saccharin, altered the ability of rats to control their appetites and ultimately caused them to gain weight.
Before you panic and switch back to the real stuff, let’s look at both sides of the story.
Details of the Study
The study consisted of feeding two different types of plain yogurt to male rats. Some of the rats received yogurt sweetened with glucose (a form of sugar) while others ate saccharin-sweetened yogurt. All of the rats also ate unsweetened yogurt.
What they found is that the rats who ate artificially sweetened yogurt consumed more food overall and gained more weight. In addition, the body temperatures of those rats didn’t rise as high as the others, which might have been a measure of energy expenditure and suggests that not only were those rats eating more calories, they may have been burning up fewer calories.
The study’s author, Susan Swithers, an associate professor of psychological sciences at the Institute, stated that “the consumption of artificially sweetened products may interfere with an automatic process.” This process, she said, involves the body’s ability to detect that it will soon be full and is based on automatic estimations of how much energy certain foods will provide.” For example, a sweet taste might be a sign that “calories are coming and I should prepare my body for the arrival of those calories.” However, when the sweetness is not followed by a significant amount of calories, the body gets confused and metabolism does not rev up as much the next time sweetness is tasted.
Essentially, it appears that the rats’ bodies are learning not to expect much in the way of calories from sweet foods and when ingesting an artificial sweetener it acts as a signal that not as many calories are going to follow, resulting in the rats consuming more calories.
The Opposition Weighs In
Experts on the other side of the table, including Lyn Nabors, president of the Calorie Control Council, have labeled the study as irrelevant, having “no basis in science” and “no relation to the human experience whatsoever.” Nabors goes on to say that artificial sweeteners can help people lose weight and that “The scientific community firmly believes that calories in, calories out is what makes a difference. The recommendation is that you reduce calories and exercise if you want to lose weight.”
While much more research has to be done on the findings, it certainly raises questions regarding the effectiveness – and purpose - of artificial sweeteners. Next time you reach for that little pink packet, you may want to think twice about what it might really be doing to your body!