What a scam!
Artificially sweetened zero calorie beverages aren’t quite the free ride the soft drink industry would have us believe.
Not only are they NOT the user-friendly weight loss aids you expect them to be, they just may be undermining your own best efforts to lose unwanted weight.
These beverages, manufactured with non-caloric sweeteners — which are also found in many other highly processed food products — have been around for decades.
I bet you know plenty of people who routinely order a diet soda with their meal or sip on diet soda throughout the day. Could one of those people be you?
Yet, how many of us have actually succeeded in losing unwanted weight by adding diet soda to our diet?
Just ask yourself, if non-caloric sweeteners were such an effective weight loss aid, why has the type 2 diabetes epidemic only surged over the last 40 years?
What’s really going on here?
Here’s the short answer: even though these beverages don’t contain sugar, or even any calories, the sweet taste of the artificial sweeteners still stimulates an insulin response. And, in the presence of insulin, our bodies can’t access our fat stores.
Worldwide, many people have turned to low calorie sweeteners instead of sugar.
Advertisements try to convince us that artificial sweeteners provide the sweet taste of sugar but with none of sugar’s unwanted side effects.
They try to convince us that artificial sweeteners are the “magic trick” that cancels out the effects of calorie intake — as if that were the sole determinant of weight gain or loss.
According to some estimates, about a quarter of all children in the United States, and more than 40% of adults, are currently consuming low calorie sweeteners.
But, are artificial sweeteners as harmless as advertisers promote and people seem to think?
The truth is, you can’t fool Mother Nature.
Research suggests that artificial sweeteners can still promote diabetes and obesity.
And now, this study adds to the evidence that sweeteners may have undesirable metabolic effects.
In fact, research also suggests that merely tasting something sweet could alter our metabolism and glucose control.
What, exactly, is an artificial sweetener?
Artificial sweeteners are synthetic chemicals. They’re created in a lab and then added to edible products manufactured in a food processing plant.
Put bluntly, our grandmothers would never recognize them as food.
They are incredibly effective at stimulating the sweet taste receptors on your tongue.
In fact, gram for gram, most are hundreds of times sweeter than sugar.
Because they give products a sweet taste without any added calories, they’re often added to foods that are then marketed as “health foods” or diet products. But calories alone are not the measure of a healthy diet.
Artificial sweeteners are found everywhere. From the diet soft drinks that are the focus of today’s post, to baked goods, condiments, candies, microwavable meals and more. We can even find them in the formulation of non-food items, such as chewing gum and toothpaste.
When it comes to eating, it all starts with the tongue.
The tongue acts as your body’s “gatekeeper.” It’s your first line of defense to help you distinguish between safe/good and dangerous/bad food choices.
Your tongue is an intricate organ with thousands of taste buds. These small structures reside in the raised bumps on the upper surface of your tongue and palate.
Recognition of a “taste” by its specific receptor leads to the release of neurotransmitters. They activate specific regions of the brain where taste is perceived and processed.
The gut and pancreas are inundated with taste receptor cells too.
Unlike the taste receptor cells found in your mouth, the taste cells in the gut and pancreas do not convey the sensation of taste to the brain.
Instead, they are responsible for sensing nutrients and maintaining the balance of hormones essential in metabolic processes.
They trigger the release of hormones that regulate appetite and satiety. They help maintain appropriate glucose levels in the bloodstream.
How artificial sweeteners effect appetite.
You don’t just eat food to satisfy your energy needs — you also want to enjoy the food you eat.
Sugar-sweetened foods trigger the release of brain chemicals and hormones — part of what is known as the food reward pathway.
Dopamine and serotonin are those feel good chemicals that reinforce the drive to eat.
This is crucial to feeling satisfied after eating.
But what about artificially sweetened foods?
Though artificial sweeteners provide a sweet taste, many researchers believe that the lack of calories prevents complete activation of the food reward pathway.
This may be the reason why artificial sweeteners are linked to increased appetite and cravings for sugary food in some studies.
In one study, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans showed that sugar consumption decreased signaling in the hypothalamus, the appetite regulator of your brain.
This response was not seen when participants consumed the artificial sweetener aspartame. This finding suggests that your brain may not register food products made with artificial sweeteners as having a filling effect. In my opinion, this is huge!
This implies that sweetness without the calories may lead you to want to eat more food, adding to your overall calorie intake and cravings for more.
Diet sodas, the sorriest weight loss hype of the 20th century.
Diet sodas were first introduced in the 1950s for people with diabetes. In subsequent years, they were marketed to people trying to control their weight or reduce their sugar intake.
Almost every popular sugar-sweetened beverage on the market has a “light” or a “diet” version — Diet Coke, Coke Zero, Pepsi Max, Sprite Zero, etc.
Despite being free of sugar and calories, the health effects of diet drinks and artificial sweeteners are more than a little questionable.
Diet sodas are a proprietary mixture of carbonated water and an array of additives.
Diet soda is essentially a mixture of carbonated water, artificial or natural sweetener, colors, flavors, and other food additives.
It usually has very few to no calories and no significant nutrition. For example, one 12-ounce (354-mL) can of Diet Coke contains no calories, sugar, fat, or protein and 40 mg of sodium.
However, not all sodas that use artificial sweeteners are low in calories or sugar-free. Some use sugar and sweetener together. For example, one can of Coca-Cola Life, which contains the natural sweetener stevia, also contains 90 calories and 24 grams of sugar.
While recipes differ from brand to brand, some common ingredients in diet soda include:
- Carbonated water. While sparkling water can occur in nature, most sodas are made by dissolving carbon dioxide into water under pressure.
- Sweeteners. These include common artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, saccharin, sucralose, or an herbal sweetener like stevia, which are 200–13,000 times sweeter than regular sugar.
- Acids. Certain acids, such as citric, malic, and phosphoric acid, add tartness to soda drinks. They’re also linked to tooth enamel erosion.
- Colors. The most commonly used colors are carotenoids, anthocyanins, and caramels.
- Flavors. Many different kinds of natural juices or artificial flavors are used in diet soda, including fruits, berries, herbs, and cola.
- Preservatives. These help diet sodas last longer on the supermarket shelf. A commonly used preservative is potassium benzoate.
- Vitamins and minerals. Some diet soft drink manufacturers add vitamins and minerals to market their products as healthier no-calorie alternatives.
- Caffeine. Just like regular soda, many diet sodas contain caffeine. A can of Diet Coke contains 46 mg of caffeine, while Diet Pepsi contains 35 mg.
Artificial sweeteners undermine metabolic health.
For example, one study found that a high intake of diet soft drinks was linked to a 121% greater risk of type 2 diabetes.
Another study noted that these beverages were associated with a 34% greater risk of metabolic syndrome.
This is supported by one study on the effects of artificial sweeteners on both mice and humans. It associated the sweeteners with glucose intolerance and a detrimental disruption in gut bacteria. And you already know how strongly I feel about feeding the microbiome.
For more information regarding the effect of artificial sweeteners on metabolic response, check out the work of Yanina Pepino, a professor of food science and human nutrition at the University of Illinois.
A healthy microbiome supports good health.
Study findings demonstrate that the artificial sweeteners sucralose, aspartame, and saccharin exert a range of negative effects on the intestinal epithelium through the sweet taste receptors.
According to the Canadian Society of Intestinal Research:
The GI tract does not process artificial sweeteners in the same way that it breaks down and digests sugar and other natural foods. This means that artificial sweeteners remain intact as they travel through the upper digestive tract, and then when they encounter bacteria in the colon, they exert an effect.
The colonic microbiota is a complex milieu that plays a central role in regulating multiple physiological processes. The researchers found that the artificial sweeteners caused an increase of bacteria in the Bacteroides genus, and a decrease of the Clostridiales genus, which they believe induced the glucose intolerance.
They found this effect across all types of artificial sweeteners.
Removing artificial sweeteners from your diet has many health benefits beyond weight reduction.
It’s up to you, of course, whether you ditch artificial sweeteners altogether or decide to use them judiciously. If you do chose to use them, think special occasions like holidays or celebrations . Plan them in advance as part of your food plan.
I designed the It’s Never Too Late Weight Loss Coaching program so you can wean yourself from dependency on artificial sweeteners.
I used to think that “I had to have” one raspberry diet Snapple ice tea every day. But I was wrong. I haven’t had one in over 3 years and I can honestly say I don’t miss it one bit.
Isn’t it time that you made use of the free Strategy Call I offer? Find out how you can reduce or eliminate artificial sweeteners from your diet.
I can teach you tips and strategies to make it simple, realistic and doable.
You can start today! Learn how to make weight loss easier than you ever imagined.
Schedule your FREE Strategy Call right here.
I’m looking forward to meeting you soon.