Looking to Drop a Few Pounds? Stop Using Artificial Sweeteners
Stevia is a natural, safer sweetening alternative
You’d think that lowering the calorie count in foods by using artificial sweeteners would help you lose weight, but the opposite is actually true. Artificial sweeteners have been shrouded in controversy ever since saccharin, the first no-calorie sweetener, was discovered in 1878. Even then, public health advocates questioned whether these lab-created sweeteners were truly safe. Ssaccharin, after all, was discovered by a chemist working with coal tar, a carcinogenic material.
Cancer concerns, Alzheimer’s disease, neurological disorders, and headaches aside, researchers are finding new reasons that these no-cal taste enhancers are posing undue health risks without fulfilling the promise of helping you lose weight. Here are a few reasons why you should stop, withdraw, and avoid artificial sweeteners at all costs.
They trick your taste buds
Artificial sweeteners, even natural ones like stevia, which comes from an herb, are hundreds, sometimes thousands, of times sweeter than sugar, says Anne Alexander, editor of Prevention magazine and author of the new book, The Sugar Smart Diet. Sucralose, sold under the brand name Splenda, is 600 times sweeter than table sugar, and neotame, an emerging alternative to aspartame, is 7,000 times sweeter. Stevia is 200 to 300 times sweeter than table sugar. “And evidence suggests that exposing your taste buds to these high-intensity sweeteners makes them less receptive to natural sources of sweetness such as fruit,” says Alexander. When your taste buds get dulled, you’re more likely to seek out sweeter and sweeter foods. This, over time, makes you a much more likely candidate for adult onset diabetes. A recent study from the University of Texas found that people who drank diet soda were 65 percent more likely to be overweight than people who drank no soda and, more bizarre, they were more likely to be overweight than people who drank regular soda.
They trick your gut
Susan Swithers, PhD, professor of behavioral neuroscience at Purdue University and a leading researcher on artificial sweeteners, says that your gut gets confused when you eat zero-calorie-but-super-sweet artificial sweeteners. The sweet taste sends a signal to your gut that something high calorie is on its way, and then leaves hunger signals very confused when those foods do not arrive. This also damages the microflora, which increases your risk for obesity and autoimmune conditions.
They mess with your hormones
The hormone insulin is negatively impacted even when it is exposed to a sugar substitute. When you taste sweet foods, even if they have zero calories, your body still releases insulin as if you’d eaten sugar. Insulin leads to blood sugar spikes, which increase cravings. Swithers’s research has also suggested that artificial sweeteners prevent your body from producing GLP-1, a hormone that controls blood sugar levels and feelings of being satisfied. Combined, the two haywire hormones could be causing you to feel hungrier and eat more.
They make you overeat
According to Natasha Turner, ND, author of The Super-Charged Hormone Diet, says that artificially sweetened foods could trick you into overeating because of the way they feel in your mouth. High fat, high sugar foods taste both sweet and dense, signaling to your brain that they’re high calories. But, artificially sweetened foods often have a thinner consistency and texture than sugar-sweetened foods and thus aren’t as satisfying—so we continue to eat...and eat and eat.
As for safer sweetener options, you could use stevia or Luo Han Guo, both of which are safe natural sweeteners. Keep in mind, however, that if you struggle with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or extra weight, then you have insulin sensitivity issues and would probably benefit from avoiding all sweeteners.
Breaking your sweet tooth requires two to three weeks of avoiding all sugar, then reintroducing only fruit back in. Treat yourself once per week to a dessert or treat you miss, but any more than that will have you back in the same boat. Avoiding sweeteners can also help reverse type two diabetes and insulin resistance.
Catherine Stack (RN, ND) is the author of the “Natural Health” column for the Niagara Gazette. She is also a practicing Doctor of Naturopathy, Certified Nurse Midwife, and the founder and CEO of Journey II Health Center for Rejuvenation. Her book, Free Yourself from a Constipated Life, is available on Amazon. Visit her website at journeyiihealth.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.