Have you ever wondered if you’re gaining weight from artificial sweeteners? Did you know artificial sweeteners are added to “tons” of products? Maybe it’s because we as Americans are so used to foods being sweet we don’t even notice unnaturally sweetened foods.
I’m sure you know by now eating much sugar, especially “added sugars”, has a negative impact on your health. I’m referring to the sugar in things like soda, candy, baked goods, and many commercially-available cereals. Added sugar is hiding just about everywhere in the grocery store.
Yes, if you eat foods with refined sugar, you’ll see spikes your blood sugar and insulin. This, in turn, increases your risk for a whole host of issues.
Years ago, the food industry responded to the demand for lower-calorie foods that still taste great by using artificial sweeteners.
The idea was to still get the sweetness without the calories; like when you have a “diet soda” versus a regular one. Theoretically, this was supposed to help people maintain a healthy body weight, and hopefully not increase anyone’s risk of heart disease, diabetes, or obesity.
But, things don’t always work out as planned…
Types of Artificial Sweeteners
Before touching on gaining weight from artificial sweeteners, I want to tell you which ones I’m talking about. Sugar substitutes fall into several categories, but one thing they all have in common is they have a (super) sweet taste and fewer calories than plain sugar.
The “artificial sweeteners” I’m talking about today are synthetic chemicals. Just a tiny bit tastes very sweet. You may also hear these referred to as “non-nutritive” or “non-caloric” sweeteners.
The ones I’m referring to are…
- Saccharin (Sweet & Low)
- Acesulfame potassium
- Aspartame (Equal & NutraSweet),
- Sucralose (Splenda)
Health Effects of Artificial Sweeteners
You know I can’t just talk about the possibilities of gaining weight from artificial sweeteners without also addressing a few other negative impacts on health that are possible.
I’m sure you’ve seen the effects from artificial sweeteners cited all over the place, and while many studies show effects, others may not.
It’s not 100% certain that artificial sweeteners cause cancer or heart disease. Plus, a lot of the research has been on animals, which may or may not translate to people.
However, one recent study shows both acesulfame potassium and aspartame both increase lipids in the bloodstream while decreasing the biomolecule that clears lipids from the bloodstream. This is why artificial sweeteners have been associated with heart disease. If these artificial sweeteners increase the lipids & can’t clear them, then heart disease could be right around the corner.
Another recent study did show individuals who consume one or more artificially sweetened sodas per day triple their risk for ischemic stroke, and the risk was almost as high for Alzheimer’s. Whoa!
Now let’s move on to the association between weight artificial sweeteners.
Did you know one study found people who tend to drink diet sodas have double the risk of gaining weight than those who don’t consume diet sodas? Plus, another study shows an increased risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes for those who consume diet drinks every day.
Not only is it possible to be at a greater risk for gaining weight and developing metabolic syndrome and diabetes, but there has also been a recent study show artificial sweeteners may alter certain genes responsible for breaking down fats & proteins. So, if you aren’t breaking down fats and proteins correctly it can have a negative impact on your weight.
How Can Artificial Sweeteners Affect Weight?
There are many ideas from many different sources of why you may be gaining weight from artificial sweeteners,
There are so many views out there to try to explain, but here are some of the more popular ones…
- People may justify eating more (or higher calorie foods) because they’ve switched to diet soda.
- Perhaps the weight gain is because the sweeteners change the taste preferences which causes fruit to taste worse, and veggies taste terrible.
- Maybe artificial sweeteners increase cravings for more (real) sweets? (More & more evidence suggests artificial sweeteners do not activate the “food reward pathways” like real sugars do.)
- It may be the sweet taste of these sweeteners signals the body to release insulin to lower your blood sugar; but, because you don’t actually ingest sugar, your blood sugar levels get too low, to the point where you get sugar cravings.
- One study suggests saccharin may even inspire addictive tendencies toward sugar.
- There may even be a more complex response involving our gut microbes and how they help regulate blood sugar levels. (SIDE NOTE: Artificial sweeteners have been shown to disrupt gut flora, which can lead to weight gain.)
Now you may be thinking, “I can’t be gaining weight from artificial sweeteners because I don’t drink diet soda, use it in my tea or sprinkle it on my oatmeal.” However, studies have tested both blood and urine of users and non-users of artificial sweeteners & the results were crazy. They even show people who say they don’t use artificial sweeteners are consuming them “unknowingly”. So, make sure you read labels to see if the manufacturer has been “sneaky” with these artificial sweeteners (especially low-fat, low-sugar, sugar-free, gum, candy, even protein powders & cereals!).
Understand added sugar is not good for you, but the solution may not be to replace them with artificial sweeteners.
I highly recommend reducing your sugar intake (yes, you can do it gradually). This way you naturally re-train your palate and start enjoying the taste of real food that isn’t overly sweet. You will also reduce your intake of added sugar, as well as, not replace it with artificial sweeteners.
Some simple things you can do:
- Try having ½ teaspoon less of sweetener in your morning drink or oatmeal.
- You can try reducing ¼ cup of the sugar called for in some recipes. Sometimes you can even sub applesauce.
- Eat a hot breakfast or a smoothie instead of cereal & “flavored” oatmeal (sugar trap).
- Drink sparkling water (add flavor if you want) instead of soda.
- Order your tea 1/2 sweet.
- Opt for a savory snack instead of a sweet one.
Trust me…Your body will thank you!
Try giving up your artificial sweeteners for at least 21 days & journal how you feel…everything from sleep, cognition, how foods taste etc. (reduce gradually to avoid withdrawal symptoms if you like).
While you’re at it, if you’d like to pick up your Free e-book 10 Unconventional Ways to Speed Up Your Weight Loss, click HERE
Sweet Enough Matcha Latte
A latte sweet enough to satisfy your taste buds...without artificial sweeteners.
- 1 teaspoon matcha powder
- 1.5 cup almond or coconut milk unsweetened
- 1-2 teaspoons maple syrup or honey optional
Heat almond milk and maple syrup/honey (if using) in a small pot.
Add matcha powder to cup.
When almond milk is hot, add about a ¼ cup to matcha and stir to combine.
Add rest of the milk to cup.
Serve & enjoy!
- You can steep a chai tea bag in the milk if you prefer chai tea over matcha.