Artificial Sweeteners – you don’t get something for nothing

by | June 1, 2008 | nutrition, nutritional therapy, sugar

I have always known that artificial sweeteners are not good for us. Before I had any scientific or nutritional knowledge, the taste alone told me that these chemicals were not exactly healthy and bore no resemblence to what ‘real’ food tasted like at all.

Then over the years there have been various studies and conspiracy theories telling of how these chemicals are harmful to health causing a whole manner of ailments from depression to brain tumours.

But an editorial published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association states that the use of sweeteners could actually be contributing to the current obesity epidemic, rather than controlling it. And, another study just released in the journal ‘Neurimage’ has found that sugar better stimulates the areas of the brain related to expectation and desire. The authors of the study also proposed that when consuming sweeteners, this lack of feedback from the brain which normally tells us we are satisfied and full, could lead the consumer to overeat.

This new information concurs with what I have long believed – your body will just not be satisfied with something fake, and you will be left wanting more. If you want to have something sweet, then have it in it’s full sugar, full fat form. It will satisfy you more and you will be less likely to eat more sweet things throughout the rest of the day.

Yet another study earlier this year found that male rats fed yoghurt containing sweeteners were seen to gain body weight and body fat. “The data clearly indicates that consuming a food sweetened with no-calorie saccharin can lead to greater body-weight gain and adiposity than would consuming the same food sweetened with a higher-calorie sugar,” wrote Susan Swithers and Terry Davidson in the journal Behavioural Neuroscience, published by the American Psychological Association (APA). Very interesting indeed!

I can confidently say from my own anecdotal research that it is generally only overweight people that consume diet or artificially sweetened food and drinks, whereas slim people tend to go for the full sugar versions.

Now, I’m not saying that consuming sugary foods and drinks is the way to lose weight, but it certainly now seems that consuming ‘diet’ foods is not either.

Sadly, through clever marketing many people now rely on ‘diet’ foods and drinks to limit their calorie intake, but as usual, nature has ensured that it’s just not possible to cheat the body. If you think that you can get away with eating sweet foods because they are artificially sweetened, then think again.


Journal of the American Medical Association
May 14 2008, Volume 299, No 18, doi: 10:1001/jama.299.18.2137
“Sugar substitutes linked to weight gain”
Author: Tracy Hampton
European Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Volume 61, Pages 691-700, doi:10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602649
“Intense sweeteners, energy intake and the control of body weight”
Authors: F. Bellisle and A. Drewnowski
2008; 39(4): 1559-1569
“Sucrose activates human taste pathways differently from artificial sweetener”
Authors: Frank GK, Oberndorfer TA, Simmons AN, Paulus MP, Fudge JL, Yang TT, Kaye WH
Behavioural Neuroscience
February 2008, Volume 122, Number 1, doi: 10.1037/0735-7044.00.0.000
“A Role for Sweet Taste: Calorie Predictive Relations in Energy Regulation by Rats”
Authors: SE Swithers, TL Davidson