There have been some doctors, dietitians, nutritionists and trainers who have said that consuming beverages and foods sweetened with artificial sweeteners is a great way to ensure failure when losing weight. Is that really the case? Do artificial sweeteners cause weight gain?
How does the brain react to artificial sweeteners?
When humans ingest sugar substitutes, the brain recognizes that something sweet is being eaten. Sweetness usually indicates carbohydrates, and the digestive system begins to get ready to work on digesting the food it senses is coming. The brain also signals the release of insulin to deal with the carbohydrates that it thinks are coming.
The body then lets the brain know, after a time, that it has not received the nutrients it was expecting. This then tends to cause another hunger response. Unfortunately, it can also cause the brain to make a person seek more food. Sometimes it sends signals for more sweet foods, but generally it just wants more food.
Partial satiety may be the reason for the weight gain.
It seems that this half-full feeling incites cravings for more food in a person. Because most artificial sweeteners have no calories, anything they are used in has fewer calories than a food sweetened with regular sugar. The food reward response, when roused but not satisfied, gives way to cravings and the propensity to overeat.
Generally speaking, the more a person tries to assuage sweet food cravings with artificially sweetened foods and beverages, there may be a higher chance of overeating in the end. The sweet-induced cravings need to be satisfied with foods that provide the full package to the body or it tends to continue to feel unsatisfied.
Is there a better way to deal with sweet cravings?
A number of studies have been examined, and it seems that the dietitians, doctors, trainers and nutritionists may be onto something with the idea that sweet foods should be avoided in general, rather than consumed in whichever artificially sweetened quantities a person desires. In fact, mothers and grandmothers may have been onto something for years when they insisted that sweets were only to be eaten in small quantities as treats.
Cravings for salty foods and fatty foods can be diminished over time by limiting the amount and frequency they are eaten in. It seems that it is possible to do the same with sweet foods and beverages as well. Just because foods made with artificial sweeteners are readily available, it doesn't mean that they should be consumed just as readily. It is through the body's response to these foods that weight gain can happen, despite the decreased calorie content in them.
How does a person enjoy sweets without overeating?
It is rare for a person to dislike sweet flavors. There are a few people out there that don't like them, but the majority of people have some level of sweet tooth or another. The path to the continued enjoyment of sweets while still maintaining weight, or decreasing it, is to gradually wean them off. It isn't a bad thing for a person to enjoy a reasonable portion of something sweet for dessert each night.
The trick is to cut portions back and to not fall into the trap of so-called diet foods. For instance, many portion-controlled frozen entrées certainly have reduced fat in them. They often have very little salt too. However, the flavor profiles are generally mimicked with a combination of artificial sweeteners, real sugars, and artificial or natural flavor additives.
While it doesn't always seem convenient, preparing meals from scratch is the best way to avoid hidden artificial sweeteners which can trigger cravings, even if the sweetness isn't overt. Make desserts in small portions from naturally sweet fruits and maybe add a little whipped cream that is prepared at home without any added sugar. Cream has a natural sweetness.
The more that real sugars are consumed in their natural forms, and in smaller portions, in the place of artificial sweeteners, the easier it will be to retrain the body's responses to certain foods. If it gets fed something that contains real nutrients, even if sweet, it will usually stop inducing unreasonable cravings.Last Updated: Thursday, September 6, 2012