Is Fake Sugar Making You Fat?
By Dr. Scott Olsen, author of “Sugarettes”
How do artificial sweeteners cause obesity?
When people first start to think about a sugar-free diet, they think they should reach for artificial sweeteners. This may not be the best idea.
Here is the crux of the problem with artificial sweeteners: They don’t do what you want them to do: keep your weight down. Artificial sweeteners claim to be all the good taste without the calories, but behind this claim is another reality.
If you ignore the fact that all artificial sweeteners are chemicals foreign to your body and that they have been blamed for many health problems, you still want to avoid them if you are trying to lose weight.
Studies have shown that people using artificial sweeteners actually consume more calories than people who don’t. (1) The reasons behind this are simple: you are tricking your body when you eat these sweeteners and your body doesn’t like to be tricked.
When you eat something sweet (artificial or not) you set off a series of reactions in the body that eventually leads to an increase in insulin. Whenever insulin increases, blood sugar will drop.
So, imagine a situation where you are drinking a sugar-free soda, but no other calories: insulin goes up, your blood sugar goes down, and you then feel hungry. And what do you do when you feel hungry? You eat.
I also think that you are training your body to expect something sweet when you continue to eat artificial sweeteners. People who go on a true non-sugar diet have a readjustment of their tastes buds and adapt to a lower level of sweetness.
People who eat artificial sweeteners never do this. This means whenever full-calorie foods are around, at say, a birthday party, you will be tempted to eat them. This just continues your sugar addiction.
The answer to this question is really: none. The reason why there are no sweeteners that are good for us is that sweeteners do not exist in nature (except for honey). All the problems mentioned above are due to super-concentrating a food and creating a sweetener and our bodies are simply not designed to handle.
There are two sweeteners that fall into the category of maybe-not-so-bad, and if you find that you simply cannot do without some form of sweetener, then you can turn to xylitol or Stevia. Of the two, Stevia is much better. Stevia is an herb that has no calories but still has a super-sweet taste.
It takes a while to learn how to cook with it because you only have to use a small amount, but it can be substituted in most places you use sugar. Stevia has the added bonus of actually helping to improve blood sugar control.(2) The only problem with using Stevia is that the addiction to super-sweet tasting foods remains and can lead to eating sugar again.
Xylitol is a sugar that doesn’t raise blood sugar as much as other sugars and has been shown to actually help with cavity prevention.(3) Once again, though, xylitol is a sugar and should be used in moderation.
1.Lavin JH, French SJ, Read NW: The effect of sucrose- and aspartame-sweetened drinks on energy intake, hunger and food choice of female, moderately restrained eaters. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 1997 Jan;21(1):37-42.
2.Chen TH, Chen SC, et al. Mechanism of the hypoglycemic effect of stevioside, a glycoside of Stevia rebaudiana. Planta Med. 2005 Feb;71(2):108-13.
3.Tanzer JM. Xylitol chewing gum and dental caries. Int Dent J. 1995 Feb;45(1 Suppl 1):65-76.
Recommended Reading: Sugarettes
Dr. Scott Olson is a Naturopathic doctor, expert in alternative medicine, author, and medical researcher. Spurred on by his patients’ struggles with sugar addiction, he was determined to discover how addictive and harmful sugar can be and ways to overcome that addiction.
The result of that study is his book Sugarettes, which details the addictive qualities of sugar and the harm that sugar does to our bodies.