Healthy Living

Artificial Sweeteners’ Effects On Appetite, Weight And Health

Artificial sweeteners are chemical substances approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that are added to food and drinks for their sweetness. The popular artificial sweeteners are sucralose, saccharin, aspartame, neotame and acesulfame, all of which have the FDA’s stamp of approval. People seek them out due to the zero calorie advantage they provide. 

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) and American Heart Association (AHA) have reluctantly endorsed the usage of artificial sweeteners to reduce risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease, among other chronic diseases.

“For anyone trying to monitor or reduce their intake of calories or added sugars, the potential impact of choosing ‘diet products’ with non-nutritive sweeteners needs to be considered within the context of the overall diet,” Christopher Gardner, Ph.D., associate professor of medicine at Stanford University in California, said in a press release issued by the two organizations fighting the health epidemics.

Gardner added that staying awaying from fattening food was necessary in addition to cutting down regular sugar, “Strategies for reducing calories and added sugars also involves choosing foods which have no added sugars or non-nutritive sweeteners – such as vegetables, fruits, high-fiber whole grains, and non- or low-fat dairy. ” 

The way artificial sweeteners work for people depend on various factors since research throws up mixed results. Some of them elaborated by Healthline are as follows. 

Appetite 

Artificial sweeteners sometimes do not completely satisfy the appetite. Unlike sugars, sweeteners do not activate the brain’s reward system. This may lead the brain to think enough food has not been consumed and increase hunger pangs instead. 

It could also stimulate sweet cravings. Conversely, some researchers believe that to satisfy one’s hunger, you just have to eat more artificially sweetened food to fill the stomach. 

Weight

There are different results reported by observational studies and randomized controlled studies. The latter is given more weightage by scientists, hence the conclusions are taken more seriously and more likely to be true. 

Some of these studies said that artificial sweeteners reduce waist size, fat mass and overall weight. By interchanging soft drinks with sugar-free sodas, a decrease in body mass index by a few points was shown. Drinking diet sodas and then later eating massive portions of sugary food would lead to putting on more weight, hence balance is the key to weight maintenance. 

Diabetes

There are studies with contrasting results regarding artificial sweeteners and diabetes. Some studies suggest that artificial sweeteners do not increase blood sugar level. Other studies suggest that drinking diet soda increases the risk of getting diabetes, but these studies are observational in nature. 

Hence, they do not conclusively prove that artificial sweeteners lead to diabetes. When it comes to controlled studies, artificial sweeteners do not cause a rise in insulin levels among the majority of the American population, except for one study analyzing Hispanics. 

Metabolic Syndrome

According to reliable studies, the consumption of diet sodas has no impact on various parameters that indicate metabolic syndrome. A particular study analyzed how different drinks affected health. Participants were given regular soda, diet soda, water and semi-skimmed milk every day.

After six months, it was observed that people who drank diet soda had 32 percent lower cholesterol and 10 to 15 percent lower blood pressure. 

Cancer 

At least 30 odd studies based on human beings have not been able to establish a link between artificial sweeteners and cancer. Even the U.S. health officials said that artificial sweeteners, if consumed in moderation, don't increase the risk of developing cancer. 

Artificial Sweeteners Research does not indicate that artificial sweeteners can have any negative impact on health. Photo courtesy of Flickr, frankieleon

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