by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN
Are you on a weight loss journey but still craving something sweet? Have you wondered if artificial sweeteners could help not only with weight loss but crush your cravings? You’re not alone.
With the rise of artificial sweeteners, it has become easier than ever to satisfy your sugar cravings without worrying about those extra calories that could stall your weight loss. But do artificial sweeteners REALLY help you lose weight? It’s a fairly controversial topic, with “experts” from both sides of the fence saying they’re right.
In this article, we are going to dive deeper into what artificial sweeteners actually are, what are their effects and drawbacks, and most importantly, if they can help you lose weight.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to treat or diagnose any condition. It is recommended that you speak with your doctor before making any changes to your current nutrition plan.
What are Artificial Sweeteners?
Artificial sweeteners, also known as sugar substitutes, are chemicals added to food items to help make them sweet without needing to add sugar. They are also known as non-nutritive sweeteners and contain very low or no calories. There are six types of sweeteners as approved by the FDA (Food Drug Administration), such as saccharin, aspartame, sucralose, advantame, neotame, and acesulfame potassium.
The rise in the demand for artificial sweeteners is mainly due to lifestyle changes and health issues like obesity, diabetes, and others. Moreover, these problems are due to poor diet, stress, lack of exercise, and terrible sleep patterns.
And to match their energy levels and avoid dietary consumption, many people have started shifting to these artificial sweeteners to satisfy their sugar cravings without adding all the calories. Think along the lines of diet or zero-sugar soda. Additionally, people are taking their morning cup of coffee, and rather than pouring in sugar, they’re adding something like Splenda or some zero-sugar creamer.
Effects of Artificial Sweeteners on Appetite
According to a few studies, artificial sweeteners can increase appetite, which in turn promotes weight gain.
This is because artificial sweeteners are not able to activate the food reward pathway that is important to make you feel satisfied after eating, at least according to studies. Now, this sweet but zero-calorie food item confuses the brain to still feel hungry.
Several studies show that sweeteners can be the reason for an increase in appetite and sugar cravings.
However, some studies show that artificial sweeteners do not affect appetite or calorie intake at all. A 6-month study on 200 people swapping sugary drinks with water or artificially sweetened beverages shows no effect on food intake.
In short, the evidence is still mixed, and more research is needed to reach a conclusion. You may want to experiment for yourself and see how your body reacts. For example, If I consume something like a Zero Sugar Coke, my cravings are gone. But you may not get the same result.
Effects of Artificial Sweeteners on Body Weight
Are you confused about whether consuming artificial sweeteners can help you lose weight? If so, you’ll want to pay close attention to this section! But as mentioned above, it may also leave you more confused than when you first started reading the article.
Studies show that consuming artificially sweetened drinks is associated with obesity rather than weight loss.
However, another study shows that artificial sweeteners may reduce weight, fat mass, and waist circumference. Moreover, studies also show that consuming sugar-free versions instead of regular soda can decrease BMI by 1.3-1.7 points. In addition to sugar, it also reduces your calorie intake.
A few clinical studies show that artificial sweeteners promote weight control. In an 18-month study on 641 children (aged 4-11), drinking 250 ml of artificially sweetened drinks showed significantly less weight gain as compared to the children drinking regular sugary drinks.
If you consume soda on a regular basis, then substituting regular ones with artificially sweetened ones can be a good choice. But diet soda won’t help you lose weight if you eat extra sweets.
In case you feel like your sugar cravings are increasing when consuming artificially sweetened drinks, it’s better to avoid them or switch to drinking more water.
Effects of Artificial Sweeteners on Metabolic Syndrome
A metabolic syndrome is a group of medical conditions like blood pressure, excess fat, high blood sugar, high cholesterol level, and more. All this increases the risk of heart disease and type-2 diabetes.
In a 6-month study on people with obesity, drinking diet soda had 17-21% less weight, 24-31% less belly fat, 10-15% lower blood pressure, and 32% lower cholesterol levels, as compared to the ones drinking regular or sugary soda. In fact, drinking diet soda shows the same effect as drinking water, as per studies.
So, What’s the Final Verdict?
Well, there is none (unfortunately). The bottom line is that artificial sweeteners can help to reduce body weight, but only slightly. If you are satisfied with the results, you can definitely continue using them.
However, if you feel that your sugar cravings are increasing, it is better to avoid artificial sweeteners and switch to some natural alternatives.
It seems like despite all the research out there currently, we still don’t have a definitive answer when it comes to artificial sweeteners for weight loss.