A new study published this month in the journal Appetite revealed that when rats were given the synthetic sweeteners saccharin and aspartame, compared to sucrose (table sugar), they gained more weight even at similar total caloric intake levels.
The researchers set out to experimentally confirm the suggestion that the use of non nutritive sweeteners can lead to weight gain, noting that “evidence regarding their real effect on body weight and hunger satisfaction is still inconclusive.”
Most Americans know that consuming too much sugar leads to health problems, specifically diabetes and obesity. That’s because dietary sugar — and that includes table sugar, raw sugar, corn syrup, honey, agave syrup and the like — turns to glucose quickly in the blood. If that energy source isn’t burned right away, it gets stored in the cells as fat.
Sugar in the blood — which comes from eating not just sugar but also starches — stimulates the pancreas to produce insulin. Because many Americans consume way more of these foods than their bodies are designed to handle, many have developed insulin resistance.
As a result, metabolic syndrome — which leads to heart disease, diabetes and obesity — is at an all-time high in America.
In theory, fake sugar would seem like a great way to beat the system. After all, artificial sweeteners don’t raise blood sugar, so they do help those with diabetes.
But Mother Nature isn’t fooled.
Mice studies have shown that non-nutritive sweeteners make mice more efficient at absorbing sugar from their diet. Although this hasn’t been proved yet in humans, we have the same setup for it.
In human terms, that would mean if two identical people ate the same diet with the same number of calories, except one person drank diet soda and the other drank water, the diet-soda drinker would take up more glucose from the diet than the water drinker.
This likely explains why diet-soda drinkers don’t lose weight and often gain weight.
In the pancreas, scientists think, sweet receptors activate insulin secretion. Any sweetener that sets them off, whether real or fake, might affect the development of insulin resistance and diabetes.
Researchers at Purdue University found that rats fed yogurt sweetened with saccharin gained more weight than rats fed yogurt sweetened with glucose (or simple sugar). The saccharin group also ultimately consumed more calories, had bigger appetites and put on more body fat, according to a pair of studies, the most recent of which appeared in April in Behavioural Brain Research.