The Bitter Truth about Artificial Sweeteners

Posted Apr 18 2011, 12:01 am

Artificial sweeteners (ARs) have been around for a long time.  I’m sure we’ve all heard/read the studies about how these “fake sugars” can cause cancer in lab rats.  But did you realize ARs may also prevent you from losing weight?  It’s true.  Studies dating back to 1970 have shown a link between weight gain and the consumption of artificial sweeteners.  How is this possible?  There are two theories.

One, ARs might actually increase your sugar craving.  Allow me to explain.  Carbohydrates are the fuel our bodies need to function, with sugar being the simplest form of carbohydrate.  Imagine eating a whole box of powdered sugar donuts for breakfast – not that I’ve ever done anything like that.  LOL!  As that sugar hits your blood stream, you turn into the Energizer Bunny on crack cocaine.  You clean every inch of your house, do fourteen loads of laundry and wash all vehicles in the neighborhood–by hand.  This is the “sugar high” we all know and love.  Then, of course, comes the “crash” when you feel like dog poo for the rest of the day.  When you ingest ARs, your body expects the “high” which is associated with the calories that come from real sugar.  Because sweeteners don’t have any calories, your body may demand you make up for that caloric absence by causing you to eat more of other foods.  Confusing?  A little.  But several studies in the 80’s, held over eight year spans, documented the correlation between users of ARs and their inability to lose weight compared to nonusers.

Two, because ARs are like a bazillion times sweeter than sugar, our taste buds come to think of that level of sweetness as normal.  In essence, we become conditioned to only like super sweet foods.  It’s kinda like watching someone (my husband) salt the ketchup for dipping his French fries.  Okay, he doesn’t do that anymore – at least not when I’m around – but his “salt” buds were so overloaded, he needed double, triple or even quadruple the amount of salt just so the foods would taste normal to him.  The same theory may hold for ARs.

Now, before you decide to chuck your six-pack of diet Coke habit cold turkey, a word of caution.  While it’s possible ARs might be more villain than hero in the battle to lose weight, everything I’ve outlined here is theory.  It’s like I said last week, what works for one person may not work for another.  If you think ARs are sabotaging your weight loss efforts, the best thing to do is experiment.  Gradually reduce your consumption of foods contain ARs, but take care not to replace the fake stuff with real sugar.  It’ll probably take a little time, but eliminating or just cutting back on artificial sweeteners might be the “diet secret” you’ve been searching for.

As always, if you’ve got a question, you can email me.  Have a great week!



13 responses to “The Bitter Truth about Artificial Sweeteners”

  1. Suzanne says:

    Not to mention the nasty chemicals in artificial sweeteners. Will you blog on “real” sugars? Honey, (yup–you–as well as the bee stuff) maple sugar (yes, I’m a New England girl!) & others. Even though there are some nutrients in natural sugars, still–sugar is sugar is sugar. And it’s addictive.

    Do folks out there know how to count the many sugars in a product such as breakfast cereal? Anything spelled with an “-ose” at the end, for example. And of course, ingredients are listed in order of weight. If they add a little bit of a whole lot of different sugars, it looks like you’re not getting as much as you really are.

    Okey dokie–I’m officially off the soapbox.

    I need a Krispy Kreme,

    • Lynda says:

      Soap-box away, girlie! You’re right about the chemicals in ARs and about how much “ose” sugars there are in our every day foods. Best advice would be to limit the amount of processed food you eat.
      And, yes, I plan a blog in the future about the differences between honey and processed (oops, there’s that word again) sugar.
      Thanks for stopping by! Love ya!

  2. Mary says:

    This is all so true. I’ve had a sugar addiction for years. I wean myself then that one little cookie leads to another and I’m off the wagon again. Tried that natural stuff-Steva, but that seems way more sweet than sugar and I’ve found it leaves a nasty aftertaste. I think I will stick to the real stuff and just try to be more aware. But it sure ain’t easy.

    • Lynda says:

      No, it sure ain’t easy, Mary. Try honey or even maple syrup like Suzanne suggested. (This is a topic for another post later.) Those natural sweets aren’t as “sweet” as sugar, but I think it boils down to re-training your palate.
      And falling off the wagon is TOTALLY normal. The thing to do is climb back on ASAP and not let one bad day turn into a bad week.
      Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Hey Lynda,
    I so needed this reminder today. And I feel a complete kinship with Mary about the addiction. I spent a phenomenal week last week off of sugar and (sob!) chocolate. But I felt great! Then I made my mom’s birthday cake on Friday and had a relatively disastrous weekend with the extra frosting. One taste of sugar and …

    I’ve never used artificial sweetners except in pop and I don’t drink much of that, so they aren’t an issue for me. I have plenty trouble with the real stuff. But your advice is perfect, Lynda. Thanks for the tutorial!

    • Lynda says:

      Lizzie, roomie!
      Glad to have helped, if only a little.
      And happy bday to your mama! Now that the cake and frosting are gone, hop back on the “wagon.” You can do it, sista. I know you can.
      Big love and hugs!

  4. Donnell says:

    Oh, Lynda, I almost didn’t pop by to see this. I love my AR, but you’re right. But because it’s you, and you are one of the wisest people I know, I checked it out. Glad I did. I have a major sweet tooth. I can resist salt no problem. Thanks for pointing this out, and welcome to blogging!

    • Lynda says:

      Donnell, tweetie~
      Great to “see” you! And you sooo flatter me. All my “wisdom” I’ve gotten from books.
      Thanks for popping in, my friend!

  5. Jen T. says:

    Thanks for the ‘skinny’ on AR’s. What about Agave nectar: any thoughts?

    • Lynda says:

      Jen T~
      Wow, great topic!
      I don’t really consider agave nectar to be one of the dreaded ARs I spoke about. As a naturally occurring sweetener, agave nectar is ranked lowest on the glycemic index. That’s huge. Also when processing the agave plant, the temperature is kept relatively low so as not to destroy the enzymes. Another plus. Agave nectar would be great for home cooking, but I don’t see it being used in commerical products anytime soon. Which is too bad. Thanks for stopping in!

  6. Ramona says:

    Some people, like my hubby, lack something in their system which causes them to get headaches, etc. from ARs (all except Splenda, which he can tolerate).

    • Lynda says:

      I didn’t realize your hubby got headaches from ARs. I know for myself, they made my hot flashes TONS worse. I’ve cut out all ARs – except one packet of Splenda on my morning cereal. I still get flashes, but at least I’m no longer a wax figure on fire. LOL
      Thanks for stopping by!

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