Artificial Sweetners

So I’m walking by a small group of women, and one of them says, “all I’ve had this morning…” as she proceeds to explain how little she’s had to eat so far today. Despite her claims, she certainly doesn’t appear to have her “diet” in check.

If someone approaches me with “can you help me with my diet”?, or something similar to this, the first thing I usually respond with is “give me two weeks of documented nutrition”. I’m sure, at this point, the first thing going through their mind is, “I want to get to work on this thing now, not in two weeks”. That’s a whole other blog but one reason I request this for is to really see what that person eats and not just that they eat “healthy” or “pretty good” or “I eat mostly…”. I cannot count high enough to tell you how many times I’ve said “what do you eat?” and the response is “oh that’s easy, I eat the same things all the time”. Then when I set up a plan for them they say “I can’t do that it’s the same thing all the time!” The fact is documentation is validation. When it’s recorded in front of you, if you’re honest, the whole world knows how you eat.

I don’t do this  so I can say “hey you’re eating way to much” or “you’re eating terrible” but more to seriously analyze what and how much of what is being consumed (Note the term metabolic derangement. We will come back to it in another blog). Although sometimes when we look at the two weeks there are obvious areas to work on, many times it’s not so obvious. This confuses and frustrates many people. Their healthy eating can turn into “healthy” (wink wink if you catch what I’m saying) eating most of the time. Meals and snacks of what we buy in to.

Sugar substitutes, artificial sweeteners, fat-free and sugar-free labels have people thinking they are eating right. Robb Wolf – founder and co-owner of CrossFit Norcal, Author, and CrossFit Nutrition Certification speaker brought to my attention an interesting article. This piece comes from Scientific American, Winner of  the 2011 National Magazine Award for General Excellence.

Just Desserts: Artificial Sweeteners Linked to Weight Gain

You know those no-guilt diet drinks you chug by the gallon, and the fake sugar you dump in your coffee to stay trim? Bad news: a new study suggests that artificial sweeteners may actually make it harder to control your weight.

Psychologists at Purdue University’s Ingestive Behavior Research Center report that nine rats given yogurt sweetened with no-cal saccharin ended up eating more and gaining more weight and body fat than eight fellow rodents given yogurt containing plain old glucose (a simple sugar with about 15 calories per teaspoon, the same as table sugar).

Study authors Susan Swithers and Terry Davidson speculate the reason is that the faux sweetener messes with the brain, fooling it into revving up the body’s metabolism in anticipation of a never-to-come calorie load.

Typically, they say, the taste buds, sensing something sweet, signal the brain to prep the digestive system to gear up for a caloric onslaught; when the expected sugar jolt (extra calories) fails to materialize, the body gets rattled and has trouble bouncing back and regulating appetite when other food is available. As a result, rats eat more or expend less energy than they would have had they had the real thing.

“The data clearly indicate that consuming a food sweetened with no-calorie saccharin can lead to greater body-weight gain and adiposity [fat] than would consuming the same food sweetened with a higher-calorie sugar,” the authors write in the journalBehavioral Neuroscience. They say that other artificial sweeteners—aspartame, sucralose and acesulfame—could have a similar effect.

The researchers note that the findings gibe with other emerging evidence—including a study published last month in the American Heart Association’s journal, Circulation—that shows people who down diet drinks are at a higher risk for obesity and metabolic syndrome (a medley of medical problems such as abdominal fat, high blood pressure and insulin resistance that puts people at risk for heart disease and diabetes).

They acknowledge, however, that more research is needed. After all, just because this counterintuitive effect may occur in rats does not necessarily mean it also happens in humans. Still, let it serve as a warning to anyone who may have a false sense of security that artificial sweeteners are all it takes to be fit and healthy.


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