The Bitter side of Sweet
Just when we think we have it figured out, another government study comes along to bust our bubble and destroy our self-confidence and our sanity. In an attempt to lose weight, or maintain weight loss, which is fast becoming our number one health concern, many people have decided to listen to the advertising claims and switch regular for no-cal sweeteners.
Are you one who has made this switch, smugly indulging in artificial, no-calorie sweeteners; waiting for the pounds to drop off and the waist to trim? Here’s the latest bad news. Research done at Purdue University suggests that folks who use the no–cal sweeteners on a regular basis will gain weight as fast or faster than those who use an equal amount of sugar.
The first study was done on rats, given yogurt sweetened with common table sugar and rats given zero calorie saccharin. Guess who ate more, gained more, put on more body fat, and didn’t increase activity or cut back on other foods? You guessed it. The saccharine ingesting group.
The researchers guess that using saccharin interferes with the body’s natural reaction to sweets. Using saccharin seems to change the body’s ability to regulate intake. In other words, you’re eating the sweet but your body hasn’t noticed. This may be the reason that obesity has risen at the same time as use of artificial sweeteners has.
Ordinarily, when we eat sweets, there is an increase in metabolic rate. It’s our body’s way of maintaining the weight set point; eat sweets and jiggle around until you have burned off the calories. The use of artificial sweeteners does not seem to cause this same response, or only a blunted response. Test subjects experienced no–or only a small amount of–increase in body temperature when they had an artificially sweetened treat. It’s as if their engine failed to rev up as it normally would when a sweetie treatie is ingested. This blunted response is likely the reason for overeating and the difficulty burning off the sweetie calories.
This study, as well as others of similar type provides ample evidence that people who drink more diet drinks are at higher risk for obesity and metabolic syndrome (the name given to the warning bells of medical indicators such as abdominal fat, high blood pressure and insulin resistance). This also means an increasing risk of heart disease and diabetes.
So what’s the bottom line in all this? You may not want to hear it, but the best thing to do is pour out the diet soda, throw away the saccharine sweetened products, and concentrate on natural forms of sweets such as fruits and berries.
The good news is that summer is just around the corner. We just saw the first cherries and strawberries in our Farmers Markets, so the timing is perfect to make the change from artificial to natural.