1. It raises your sugary expectations.
“Artificial sweeteners are 200-plus times sweeter than regular sugar, so one concern is that if you consume these drinks, you might become habituated toward sweetness,” Malik says. This then might influence you to consume more sugar or sweet things in general, which rock-solid evidence shows is linked to weight gain. “That’s really the number one rationale behind why some people believe these artificial sweeteners might be backfiring.”
2. Your brain registers fake sugar as the real stuff.
One area of research focuses on how artificial sugars trigger sweetness receptors in the brain. Our bodies expect that after a sweet taste, an influx of calories will follow. But with artificial sweeteners, they don’t, so your brain gets confused. “When you have artificial sugars, you’re getting that sweet sensation without calories,” Meni explains. Some experts believe this disconnect leaves the body craving those calories it now thinks are missing, leading to overeating and ultimately, weight gain.
3. Your body might still try to process artificial sweetener as if it’s real sugar.
Eating sugar signals our bodies to produce insulin to process it, and some studies have suggested that the same response happens even when we eat the fake stuff. “Some smaller studies have shown it might actually promote an insulin response,” Malik says, which means that your body releases the hormone in anticipation of raised sugar levels in the blood (that in this case, never comes).
Over time, too much insulin output can lead to insulin-resistance, weight gain, and type 2 diabetes. “But,” she adds, “the evidence is really quite thin.” Meni notes that most of the studies thus far that show this potential connection have been done on rodents. One study from 2014 suggests a connection between artificial sweeteners, the gut microbiome, and glucose intolerance. Again, researchers are intrigued, but the evidence isn’t solid yet.
Video credit: Self Magazine via YouTube
4. You use diet drinks as an excuse to consume more calories elsewhere.
Meni says that she’s currently involved in research looking at why people choose artificial sweeteners. “For some, it’s that if they do, they can have that extra cookie, which obviously negates the effects,” Meni says. Some observational studies show people who consume diet soda consume more calories and snack foods—but again, the actual cause-and-effect relationship is unclear.
Diet drinks do seem to be better for weight management when chosen instead of full-sugar ones. But experts still worry that the artificial stuff is bad in the long run.
“These artificial sweeteners have zero to a few calories, and when it comes to using them as a replacement for regular soda, it makes sense at least in the short term,” Malik says. “But we don’t know long term what the ramifications are of consuming these sweeteners.” If you drink soda regularly, she recommends switching to diet to reduce the risk of weight gain and things like type 2 diabetes—it’s the lesser of two evils. But ultimately, cutting soda out completely and sticking to H2O (regular or seltzer), coffee, and tea is the best choice for your overall health.
This article is the sole opinions and discretion of SELF Magazine and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of ToxicHoungr.com, it’s staff, parent companies and/or its affiliates.
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