Artificial Sweeteners and Weight Gain

You don't need artificial sweeteners in order to eat a low-calorie diet.

Counting calories is a weight loss strategy many of us rely upon. Sugar contains 16 calories per teaspoon, a number that can quickly add up throughout the day. As part of our low-calorie diets, some of us use artificial sweeteners as sugar substitutes, since they are either very low or completely lacking in calories. Some of the most popular artificial sweeteners include aspartame (NutraSweet and Equal), saccharin (Sweet n’ Low), and sucralose (Splenda).

While opting for low- to no-calorie artificial sweeteners may seem like a sensible way to cut down on calories and lose weight, there are a few artificial sweetener truths that may put a damper on that logic. We can’t be 100% certain that artificial sweeteners cause weight gain, but there are both physiological and psychological reasons to suspect such.

RELATED: 6 Ways to Cut Back on Refined Sugar Today

Physiological Effects

Some researchers, such as Purdue University neuroscience professor Susan Swithers, have found ample scientific evidence that supports the theory that artificial sweeteners contribute to metabolic abnormalities that lead to weight gain. Typically, sweet tastes are associated with calories. When sweetness hits your tongue, it directs your brain and digestive organs to prepare for the breakdown of calories and the feeling of satiety. When these calories aren’t delivered, the brain and digestive organs begin to learn over time not to listen to the signals sweetness sends. This may result in your body no longer learning to feel satiated when eating foods containing sugar.

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Psychological Effects

Stocking up on sugar-free items can trick you into overindulging. If, for example, you buy a box of sugar-free cookies, you may decide to have three or four instead of just one, because they’re sugar-free. However, there are still carbohydrates and calories in the cookies that, if not expended as fuel, will be converted to fat.

Natural Sweeteners

The recipes you see on Skinny Ms. call for natural sweeteners, including stevia, coconut palm sugar, and honey. Most natural sweeteners pack about the same amount of calories as refined sugar.

But there are good reasons to use natural sweeteners instead of sugar. For instance, coconut palm sugar is low on the glycemic index, meaning that it doesn’t cause spikes in blood glucose. The gold standard for natural sweeteners is likely stevia, which, unlike others, contains no calories. It comes with possible health benefits, including the ability to lower blood pressure and help to manage blood glucose levels. Preliminary research suggests that, unlike no-calorie artificial sweeteners, stevia does not encourage overeating.

RELATED: 10 Skinny Drinks Under 200 Calories

Time Healthland

Our recipes show that you don’t need artificial sweeteners in order to eat a low-calorie diet. Get our Skinny Ms. Recipe Collection eBook for 101 low-calorie recipes, and join us on Facebook and Twitter for helpful info every day.

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The SkinnyMs. team believes that all people, regardless of age, size, and fitness level, have the power to transform their lives — they just need the resources to do so. The SkinnyMs. method promotes healthy living through a combination of clean eating and regular exercise. We offer everything you need to be successful.

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