Artificial sweeteners add sweetness to food without affecting the number of calories.
Anecdotally one could keep food sweet, but reduce calories by using artifical sweeteners. This might allow those with a high sugar intake to be able reduce the intake of calories in the reduction of weight, especially for those people on high-sugar diets. One problem with that idea is that there have been indications that ingesting artificial sweeteners can make you hungrier (1). But hunger isn’t the problem for weight-loss, unless it causes you to consume more.
In an interesting article posted about artificial sweetener in 1989 by Rogers and Blundel indicated from a test on participants where they either loaded with unsweetened food, artificially sweetened food, or sugary food and tested the effect on subsequent meal intake one hour later. The results indicate that the starchier food (unsweetened) had more enhanced effects on satiation, and that the saccharine infused pre load tended to be associated with increased appetite at the next meal and after this also.
Let’s face it, there have probably been a huge difference in the sweeteners over the last 27 years. So a more recent study (for the nay-sayers) (2) linked artificially-sweetened soda drinks as well as sugar-sodas to type 2 diabetes. In the study, diet soda drinkers had a higher incident of diabetes over the longitudinal study.
The mechanisms that might be at play here:
1. Just being told something is heathy has been shown to increase consumption of volume of a product by 20%!
2. The brain is not tricked into thinking that a food is sweet, despite the taste on the tongue. Therefore there isn’t that sweet treat satisfaction in the brain reward pathways, perhaps leading to compensation of the person by subconsciously trying to eat more to get this sugar high!
My message is that artifical sweeteners don’t equate to healthy just because they are low or no calories. Certainly, they can make dieting a little more bearable, but do not mistake them to be a solution. Instead all that they do is mask a problem.
Some of the research might also indicate that because the brain isn’t tricked, that the craving becomes stronger (making a binge more likely to occur). On top of that, suggestions that hunger increases as a result of eating artifical sweetener can make dieting hard to adhere to.
Therefore there are still repercussions. It is certainly too good to be true that you can eat a calorie-free cake all day everyday and reap the benefits comparitive to focusing on nutrition and balance.
1 Blundell, J E, Hill, A J Paradoxical effects of an intense sweetener (aspartame) on appetite Lancet (x) 1092-1093, 1986
2 “Consumption of artificially and sugar-sweetened beverages and incident type 2 diabetes in the E3N-EPIC cohort” Guy Fagherazzi, PhD; Alice Vilier, MSc; Daniela Saes Sartorelli, PhD; Martin Lajous, ScD; Beverley Balkau, PhD; Françoise Clavel-Chapelon, PhD.
3 Yale J Biol Med. Jun 2010; 83(2): 101–108.