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Are Artificial Sweeteners the Culprit in the Game of Weight Loss?

Aug 6, 2008
Is it a coincidence that the obesity epidemic exploded in the same time period that saw a huge increase in the use of artificial sweeteners? Was the invention of Saccharin in the 1950s a great gift to dieters or was it a nightmare of epic proportions?

That question remains the topic of much debate. Contradictory research findings make it difficult for us to choose sides.

The production of artificial sweeteners follows an interesting timeline. Used in both world wars because it was cheaper than sugar, Saccharin has been around since 1879. It was first marketed as Sweet and Low and pretty much had a monopoly on the business until 1983, when Aspartame became popular. Sucralose was added in 1999.

When it came to the production of low-calorie foods and beverages, the public couldn't get enough of these products. While artificial sweeteners are meant to trick the taste buds in to thinking you have satisfied your sweet tooth, some research is now indicating that the sweeteners actually confuse our systems when it comes to caloric intake and appetite control.

One study causing concern was conducted at Purdue University. The study results indicated that rats fed artificial sweeteners actually ate more food and gained more weight than those who ate foods without this substance.

Another study that gives one pause was conducted at the University of Texas Health Science Center. Over a four-year period, participants who drank even one soda, diet or regular, showed a 50% increased risk of metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is the term used to describe a collection of risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Some of the common risk factors are high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and abdominal obesity. In fact, as a result of this study, the statement was made that drinking even one diet soda a day increases the obesity risk by 41%.

Opponents of this study, particularly The Calorie Control Council, are quick to point out the flaws. This international organization represents the low-calorie and reduced-fat food and beverage industry. They report that the rat sampling was small and that Saccharin is often used as a reward for rats. Further comments include the fact that a study on rats does not necessarily apply to humans, and physical inactivity and large portion sizes were not factored in as possible contributing causes.

In regards to the second study, the Calorie Control Council reports that there were no definitive conclusions or reasons given as to why diet soda would increase the risk of metabolic syndrome. "The researchers did not control for weight gain, which is related to the development of metabolic syndrome, nor did they exclude overweight individuals from the study." The Council goes on to report several major studies that showed artificial sweeteners to be beneficial to weight loss, and stated, "Leading health groups agree that low-calorie sweeteners and the products that contain them can help people manage their weight as part of an overall healthy diet."

So, there you have it! Either artificial sweeteners are sabotaging your weight loss efforts or they're helping to keep you satisfied in place of higher caloric alternatives. Can we blame them for our overindulgence or do we have to look inward and accept the blame for leading inactive lives that revolve around food?
About the Author
Gail M. Davis offers more informatiabout about artificial sweeteners alaboutg with healthy recipes and other issues related to weight loss about her website, Easy Weight Loss Tips.
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