Artificial sweetners could be sabotaging your diet

Artificial sweetener

I’ve been wanting to write a post about the fact that zero-calorie diet food could actually be sabotaging your diet. Imagine my delight when I received an email from Dr. Mark Hyman this week with an article about exactly that!

You can go read Dr. Hyman’s excellent article in full, or here’s a summary for you busy folks:

•    Our current obesity epidemic has coincided perfectly with the introduction of large amounts of artificial sweeteners into our food supply.

•    A body of research indicates that just the thought or smell of food initiates a whole set of hormonal and physiologic responses that get the body ready for food. (Think Pavlov’s dogs)

•    Diet sodas and artificial sweeteners as ring the Pavlovian bell for your physiology.

•    Your body is already preparing to regulate your energy balance, metabolism, weight, calorie burning, and many other things — just by thinking about food.

•    Any sweet taste will signal your body that calories are on the way and trigger a whole set of hormonal and metabolic responses to get ready for those calories.

•    When you trick your body and feed it non-nutritive or non-caloric sweeteners, like aspartame, acesulfame, saccharin, sucralose, or even natural sweeteners like stevia, it gets confused.

•    There was a study where rats that ate saccharin-sweetened yogurt consumed fewer calories overall than rats that ate sugar-sweetened yogurt, but the first group they gained more weight and body fat despite fewer calories.

•    If you have a desire for something sweet, have a little sugar, but stay away from “fake” foods.

•    Bottom line: Avoid artificial sweeteners, including aspartame, acesulfame, sucralose, sugar alcohols such as malitol and xylitol (pretty much anything that ends in “ol”), as well as natural artificial sweeteners like stevia. *Although Dr. Hyman says to stay away from stevia, I would argue that it’s the least harmful of the zero-calorie sweeteners, for reasons that are best kept for a future blog post.

•    Eating a whole-foods diet that has a low glycemic load and is rich in phytonutrients and indulging in a few real sweet treats once in a while is a better alternative than tricking your body with artificial sweeteners — which leads to wide scale metabolic rebellion and obesity.

So… your turn! Are you into diet foods? Zero-calorie beverages that aren’t water, tea or coffee? Are you willing to give them up? Let me know in the comments below.

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One Comment

  1. Natalie
    Posted September 26, 2011 at 07:58 | Permalink

    Based on this post, I walked into work this morning wondering if the sweet smell of freshly baked muffins is enough to confuse my body (I’m in an office tower over a mall with lots of coffee shops). Should I plug my nose? Things that make you go hmmm…

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