NOT SO SWEET
Do artificial sweeteners promise skinny but actually make you fat? Recent science suggests that these modern-day waist whittlers are actually doing just the opposite. By Scott Olson
t first glance, artificial sweeteners make perfect sense. You get your cake but you dodge the calories. Food scientists who concocted calorie-free sweeteners had just this notion in mind: provide sweetness minus the calories. It seemed that artificial sweeteners were the perfect answer to our collective sweet tooth and ever-growing waistlines. We could all rejoice as we downed as much diet soda and sugar-free cookies as we desired. But there was a nagging question in the back of our minds every time we tipped that sugar-free soda toward our mouths: Is this stuff really good for me? Sure, doctors and health organizations such as the American Heart Association and American Diabetes Association suggest that we use artificial sweeteners to avoid calories. From that perspective, artificial sweeteners are the clear choice, but are calories the whole story?
SACK THE SACCHARINE? ➜ Recently, health scientists have been asking
the question: Does getting our sugar fix from artificial sweeteners translate into better health?
Susan E. Swithers, Ph.D., a professor of psychological sciences and a behavioral neuroscientist at Purdue University wrote a paper on artificial sweeteners that appeared in the journal Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism. She suggests, “It is not uncommon for people to be given messages that artificially-sweetened products are healthy, will help them lose weight, or will help prevent weight gain. The data to support those claims are not very
strong, and although it seems like common sense that diet sodas would not be as problematic as regular sodas, common sense is not always right.” Early clinical studies did show people gain less weight when they use artificially sweetened beverages. Recently, a few large population studies have thrown cold water on those early results. These large studies linked frequent consumption of artificial sugars to overall poorer health—including weight gain.
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