Artificial Sweeteners: Can They Cause Weight Gain?

The great debate on how one should diet for weight loss is a never-ending conversation. The truth of the matter is that dieting is different for everyone, and no one diet will be perfect for every single person as we are all individuals. When it comes to weight loss, many commercial food companies release items that say “diet”, “sugar-free” or “light” on them in order to make consumers think they will be good for losing weight. Many of these products are sweetened with aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose. These are artificial sweeteners that are zero calorie, however, they have been shown to play a part in weight gain.

How can this be if they have no calories? It is because artificial sweeteners such as stevia, sucralose, aspartame, causes the reward center in the brain to light up as if you are consuming sugar without actually receiving sugar, which will lead you to crave more.  It is like playing a cruel trick on your brain.  Research also suggests that this trains the brain to not associate sweetness with caloric intake and therefore lead people to subconsciously choose sweet food.  In fact, subjects in the San Antonio Heart Study that consumed 21 or more diet drinks per week were twice as likely to become overweight or obese as those that did not drink any diet drinks. 

Dr. David Ludwig, a specialist on weight loss and obesity at Boston Children’s Hospital, has also noted that people use consumption of artificially sweetened foods to psychologically bargain with themselves. He stated that people often say to themselves, “ I’m drinking diet soda, so it’s okay to have cake.”

Furthermore, we only eat and drink so much in a day.  If people are choosing to consume chemical loaded and processed diet foods and beverages, they aren’t consuming as many healthy, natural foods and enough good old fashioned water.  Instead of eating a candy bar or drinking a soda, try eating a handful of berries or an orange. Sparkling water can be a good substitute for soda.  In addition, be careful not to fall into the trap of consuming a lot of protein bars to replace whole foods – they too can have an immense amount of chemicals in them and are often rich in calories.  

If you want to learn more about nutrition and healthy living, contact the SCNM Medical Center.