As anyone who’s ever been on a diet knows, there are tons of prepackaged low-fat, low-calorie treats out there that promise to have the same flavor as their unhealthy counterparts. Often times this promise is proved untrue when you take your first bite. But to some people’s tastebuds, the diet version tastes even better than the regular.
Diet colas are one example of this phenomenon. People rave about the tastiness of diet sodas, even going so far as to say they’re addicted to diet drinks!
If you’re among the crowd that grabs a diet soda every day, you should know that despite the word diet, these drinks are anything but healthy for you. The artificial sweeteners found in diet sodas have actually been shown to increase calorie intake and sabotage weight loss efforts. So what’s the deal with artificial sweeteners and weight loss?
Artificial sweeteners are essentially used as alternative or substitutes for sugar. Although they provide a sweetness like that found in natural sugar, they do not have as many calories as sugar. Their lower calorie count would make you think that artificial sweeteners are amazing weight loss supplements as compared to their counterparts, but recent studies have found otherwise.
Artificial Sweeteners and Weight Loss
Affects on the Brain
The new study by the Yale University has concluded that the consumption of artificially sweetened products can actually sabotage efforts to reduce your overall level of calorie intake. Although dieters may save themselves calories when consuming a diet soda, they will later reach for higher-calorie snacks, researchers say.
In their research, the scientists found that our brains aren’t fooled by artificial sweeteners. The study looked at the reward center of the brain where feel-good chemicals are released after our food and drink is processed by our bodies. Research showed that feel-good dopamine levels only rose when actual sugar was broken down for use as energy.
This chemical release does not occur when artificial sugars are processed, so later when presented with the chance to eat and thus release those feel-good chemicals, we will choose high-calorie treats.
Artificial Sweeteners and Carbohydrates
Many items that are artificially sweetened contain high carbohydrate counts, such as brownies and candy. Even if there are zero calories in the sweetener, the food still contains carbohydrate calories that will be converted to fat and cholesterol that contribute to weight gain.
Artificial Sweeteners and Appetite
Researchers have also determined that sweet taste increases appetite, no matter the calorie count. The artificial sweetener Aspartame is the biggest culprit. Table sugars like glucose or sucrose may contain calories, but consuming them leads to overall lower food consumption. This is because the calories in natural sweeteners like glucose catalyze biological processes to keep your energy consumption consistent. Basically, natural sugars activate your appetite, but tell your body once it has consumed enough calories; then you feel full. Artificial sugars will still trigger appetite, but since they contain no calories, you will still feel hungry.
Alternatives to Artificial Sweeteners
While it may seem counterintuitive that natural sugars are better for your health than artificial sweeteners that don’t contain calories, the truth is that artificial sweeteners are bad for your weight loss! Unless you consume artificial sugars for a medical reason, it’s best to avoid them altogether. Stick to natural sugars, and try sipping on all-natural fruit juices to satiate your cravings for sugary drinks. Stevia, agave nectar, and honey are all healthy all-natural alternatives as well.