So, you think you’re so good–when faced with the option of an iced-cold can of Coca Cola Classic or a sleek and refreshing bottle of Diet Coke, you go for the sugar-free version. But then why did you just gain five pounds? Set down that sans-azucar Sierra Mist and read on–your IE Weekly might be able to provide a little insight into why artificial sweeteners are souring your diet.
While five low-calorie sweeteners (Aspartame, Saccharin, Acesulfame K, Sucralose and Neotame) have been deemed safe by the FDA for general consumption, many dietitians and health professionals, such as Vreni Gurd, B.P.H.E, A.C.S.M., are concerned that artificial sweeteners often cause people to eat more and gain weight. On her website, Trusted.md, Gurd points out that when the body detects a sweet taste, it expects to get carbohydrates that contain nutrition; but when the stomach finds no nutrition, a message is sent to the brain to eat more food in order to get the nutrition needed. In other words, instead of tricking your body out of mild hunger with a calorie-free drink, that Diet Mountain Dew you just downed may make you ravenous and much more likely to eat extra calories than you would’ve consumed in the first place. And studies by scientists at Purdue University take it to a whole other level. Normally the body associates sweet foods with sugar or carbohydrates, both good sources of energy–i.e. if a food is sweet, it probably has lots of calories, thus your energy needs are taken care of and the body receives signals that no more chow is necessary. But researchers at Purdue found that artificial sweeteners may interfere with the body’s natural ability to count the calories in various foods. For example, drinking a Diet Dr. Pepper rather than a sugary one at lunch may reduce the calorie count of that meal, but it also may trick the body into thinking that other sweet items that do contain sugar don’t have as many calories either–when you have a mocha with whipped cream later in the day, even though that mocha may have 600 calories, your body now thinks it’s getting far less calories so it demands you get that 500-calorie muffin as well. According to WebMD.com, researchers say these findings show that losing the ability to judge a food’s calorie content based on its sweetness may be contributing to the dramatic rise in overweight and obesity rates in the U.S.
But switching to regular soda won’t help. Most popular brands of soft drinks are made with high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which is not, sadly, the liquid version of a healthy, fiber-filled ear of corn. Produced by using a complicated mess of enzymes to process corn starch into glucose, and then process the glucose to produce a higher percentage of fructose, this sweet stuff with a scarily long shelf life laces practically everything you eat, from frozen foods to baked goods to ketchup. Although the evidence is not as clear in human studies, animal studies have shown a link between increased consumption of high-fructose corn syrup and adverse health effects, such as diabetes and high cholesterol. And because HFCS is basically just chemically altered sugar, its increased consumption has been linked with the ballooning obesity crisis in the U.S.
So forget about buying the world a Coke–the best thing you can drink is plain old water. It hydrates, refreshes and has zero calories. If you need something sweeter, try adding a splash of an exotic, vitamin-packed natural juice, such as pomegranate, peach or blueberry, to lemon, lime or orange-flavored mineral water. Or make a giant batch of fruit-flavored iced-green tea.