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Artificial Sweeteners Prevent Weight Loss

Man drinking a bottled beverage
October 16, 2014 (Updated: August 16, 2018)
Lily Moran

Trying to lose weight? Worried about sugar adding inches to your waistline? Or maybe you read my newsletter on the sugar-cancer connection, not to mention links to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Good for you—I applaud you for making smart choices and being willing to do what’s necessary to protect your health. Giving up foods containing added sugars is a big step in the right direction.

Just one more bit of advice—whatever you do, don’t fall for the idea that artificial sweeteners are a healthy sugar alternative, a way to have your cake and a waistline, too.

Let me make two things perfectly clear: One, artificial sweeteners are unnatural chemicals that do not belong in your body. Two, if you think they’ll help you lose weight, you’ve fallen for one of the greatest hoaxes of our time.

Hopefully, the first point doesn’t need an explanation. Chemicals in air, water, food, and cleaning and personal care products already overwhelm your body. Studies not funded by the artificial sweetener industry have linked sugar substitutes with health issues that go far beyond gaining a few pounds.

One recent human clinical trial found that drinking diet sodas—even just one a day!—increased the risk of heart attack and stroke by a stunning 61 percent!

But the fact that calorie-free, artificial sweeteners don’t help with weight loss requires an explanation. Two recent studies show how this works.

First, researchers at Texas Christian University conducted three experiments with human participants to test the effects of three different beverages—one sweetened with sugar, one unsweetened, and one with a non-caloric sweetener.

They concluded that artificial sweeteners lead to psychological changes likely to increase calorie intake. In other words, you don’t gain weight from drinking diet beverages. Weight gain comes from a change in attitude toward food and drink that happens after consuming these products.

A second study, published in the respected American Journal of Public Health, explains how this works. In analyzing food and beverage intake in almost 24,000 adults, researchers found that overweight and obese adults drank more diet beverages and ate more calories from solid food than those of a healthy weight.

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So people who drink diet beverages tend to eat more. Why? A patient I’ll call Maggie explains the process. “For a long time after gaining weight, I talked about losing weight, but I wasn’t serious,” she told me.

“I figured if I drank diet soda or used sugar-free sweetener in my iced tea, that entitled me to a piece of cheesecake. Crazy, I know, but that’s what a lot of dieters think—somehow we could magically lose weight with artificial sugar.”

But there is another issue with artificial sweeteners you should know about, because it could damage your health in ways that go far beyond just adding pounds.

In results that researchers described as “a surprise to us,” a recent study found that two things happened to animals and humans who consumed artificial sweeteners.

First, they developed glucose intolerance, a key symptom of pre-diabetes. Second, fake sweeteners disrupted the balance of good and bad intestinal bacteria, similarly to what’s seen in individuals with diabetes.

Bottom line: Consuming artificial sweeteners puts you on the fast track for diabetes. That means you should consider the following products off limits:

  • Acesulfame K (sold as Sunett, Sunette, and Sweet One)
  • Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal, Canderel, AminoSweet, NatraTaste)
  • Neotame (not sold to consumers but used to sweeten many processed foods)
  • Saccharin (Sweet ‘n Low)

This particular research was based on a small sample size. But even so, findings this dramatic can’t be ignored. And my firm advice is to avoid these artificial sweeteners like the plague.

I want all of my patients and readers to preserve and protect their health. Here’s what I suggested to Maggie. These tips helped her tame her sweet tooth and they can help you, too:

  1. If you’re trying to lose weight, here’s a simple trick: just drink 16 ounces of water before each meal. Just doing that means you’ll eat nearly 100 fewer calories at each meal. Plus, you’ll be well hydrated, too!
  2. Stop buying products with added sugar or artificial sweeteners. If they’re not in your house, you’re less likely to consume them.
  3. Find alternative ways to reward yourself throughout the day. Sugar affects the reward center in the brain. But you can wean yourself off by replacing it with healthier choices—water flavored with fresh fruit slices or herbal tea with a bit of raw, organic honey or maple syrup. Honey and maple syrup don’t raise insulin levels and have actual health benefits, unlike artificial products. The herbal sweetener stevia is a calorie-free option.

Artificial sweeteners will not help you lose weight. In fact, they appear to disrupt bodily functions and damage your health, while making it harder to lose weight.

Learning to live without sweets is one of the keys to a healthy future. I hope you’ll make this a priority, and I promise you will feel better and have more energy.

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