Sugar substitutes and body fat: New study finds surprising link

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sugar-substitutes(NaturalHealth365) Unfortunately, diet soda is a mainstay in the lives of millions of people every single day.  Since the discovery of aspartame and other non-nutritive (toxic) sweeteners, there has been an explosion in the amount of “diet” foods and drinks available to us.

Numerous studies have presented evidence supporting the overall safety of artificial sweeteners, but an even greater number of studies have pointed to significant associated risks.  In fact, a recent study suggests a potential association between weight gain and specific sugar substitutes.  Whether you’ve chosen to steer clear of diet sweeteners entirely or have harbored reservations about sugar substitutes, this new study warrants further investigation and consideration.

The hidden impact of sugar substitutes: A 20-year study on long-term consumption

Chances are good that at some point in your life, you have had a diet drink or a low-sugar food, and in a lot of cases, you might not have even known it.  Sucralose, sorbitol, allulose, and a host of other non-sugar sweeteners are in everything from soda and food to gum and toothpaste.  They provide the sweetness that we often need to use or consume certain products without contributing calories.

For the purposes of this study, we are not talking about consuming sugar substitutes in small amounts, like brushing your teeth or chewing gum.  This study looked at the long-term above-average use of sugar substitutes over the course of 20 years.

Reevaluating the impact of sugar substitutes: Insights from the study

This study implies that even though sugar substitutes have minimal or zero calories, they can still impact the body.  Previous studies have hinted at an insulinogenic response to non-sugar sweeteners, suggesting that the body may release insulin when exposed to sweetness, even in the absence of sugar calories or glucose.

Insulin plays a role in fat storage, so if you consume a high-calorie meal, such as a fast food combo, and try to offset a portion of those calories by drinking diet soda, it may still trigger a fat-storage mechanism in the body.

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While substituting full-sugar foods and drinks has conventionally been recommended for managing diabetes and weight, this study raises questions about the effectiveness of that advice.

Could your consumption of sugar substitutes impact your weight?

It is important to note that this study does not indicate causation – there is nothing in the results that suggests that simply drinking diet soda will make you fat.  Still, the creators of the study did make sure to track confounding variables such as the overall diets of the participants.

You see, there has been a notion that people who drink diet soda often do it to offset otherwise bad dietary choices.  In that scenario, the participants may have gained weight anyway because they were eating above-average calories, but the study’s authors tracked calories and food.  Their findings were consistent across all groups and indicated that increased intake of sugar substitutes correlated with increased intra-abdominal and intramuscular fat regardless of total energy intake.

It’s also important to note that this increased weight gain was present with saccharin and aspartame, but not sucralose, for reasons that are not clear.

Strike a balance between sweetness and health

While the authors of this study acknowledge the need for more research to fully comprehend the relationship between sugar substitutes and weight gain, it’s important to recognize that an occasional indulgence is unlikely to wreak havoc on your diet or lead to substantial weight gain.

However, it’s worth exercising caution if you find yourself regularly consuming significant quantities of sugar substitutes, especially within an otherwise wholesome diet.  This excessive reliance on sugar substitutes could potentially undermine your commendable dietary efforts.  Additionally, the complete safety profile of these substitutes remains a subject of ongoing investigation.

In general, individuals should strive to minimize their consumption of sugary and sweetened food items.  Our brains are naturally drawn to the allure of sweetness, and it’s remarkably easy to overindulge, even with artificial sweeteners.  Whether our body’s hormonal systems can distinguish between fake and real sugar is a matter of debate, but our conscious awareness certainly can.  Therefore, it’s prudent to consider reducing the overall intake of sweet substances to promote better overall health.

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