Artificial Sweeteners and Weight Loss: What You Should Know

January 14, 2013

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soda popYou see it at nearly every restaurant. Sitting in the middle of the table, mixed in with the sugar packets. Sometimes it’s a little pink packet, other times it’s blue. I’m referring to the zero-calorie sweeteners. They’re tempting to use and seem like a weight loss dream—a way to satisfy your sweet tooth and stick to your weight loss plan. I hate to burst your bubble, but it may be too good to be true.

Studies show those who use artificial sweeteners tend to gain more weight than those who opt for natural sweeteners. Here’s why:

It’s in Your Head: People may think because they are having a zero-calorie soda they can consume more of something else. It’s like when you skip the mashed potatoes so you can have a piece of pie. The logic seems solid, but it becomes an issue when you get carried away. Sometimes you end up consuming more than you think, and repeating this cycle too often leads to weight gain.

They Stimulate Appetite: When you drink a diet coke, artificially sweetened iced tea, or artificially sweetened dessert, your body expects to process those calories. However, it’s not getting them, and some experts suggest this leads to more cravings and hunger. Even though these foods and beverages don’t contain any calories, their sweet taste may set off a complex biochemical reaction that can increase appetite in the body’s attempt to find and store the missing calories.

They Trigger Fat Storage: Some experts believe artificial sweeteners somehow trigger a fat storage response within the body, directing cells to stockpile as many calories as possible in the form of excess body fat. Carrying excess body fat is linked to an array of other health issues including heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer.

My advice: Steer clear of artificial sweeteners. When you are thirsty, reach for nature’s zero calorie beverage – water. And when you want something sweet to eat, opt for a piece of fresh fruit instead of diet cookies or sweets.

A key part of losing weight and keeping it off is learning to change bad habits. If your weight issue is related to a sweet tooth, substituting artificial sweeteners for your cravings won’t solve the problem. It’s like a Band-Aid—a temporary solution that doesn’t cure the wound. For long-term weight loss success, you have to train your mind. Once you do, you will find your cravings for sweet, high-fattening foods will decrease.

Dr. Michael Kaplan

Founder and Chief Medical Officer

The Center for Medical Weight Loss

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