Your brain on artificial sweeteners

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It is a well-established fact that the consuming artificial sweeteners can lead to an increase in weight gain. Despite the previously held belief that consuming artificial sugars would lead dieters to decrease their intake of real sugars, in fact the opposite is true.

We have known for some time that artificial sweeteners can cause the body to actually crave, and therefore consume, more (unhealthy) food, however research is now showing that the human brain isn’t actually “tricked”, as previously thought, when consuming these low calorie options. Yes, it appears that our brains are smarter than we take them for. Scientists from the Yale University School of Medicine have now demonstrated that the pleasure we derive from eating the normal sweet stuff comes from the amount of energy we expect to gain from it. Using this logic therefore, the brain knows that low calorie or no-calorie sweeteners are imposters when the metabolism doesn’t rev up as a result of consumption. It is for this reason, researchers muse, that those who eat artificial sweeteners end up craving and consuming more calories over time than those who just eat normal sugars.

I have posted previously on the dangers of artificial sweeteners here, but for those of you who need a refresher (or a few more reasons why you should rid them from your diet), here is a list:

  • Artificial sweeteners are linked to diabetes
  • They have been linked to cancer in animals
  • They can be harmful during pregnancy
  • They may change how the body responds to carbohydrates. 

So what is the take away message here? While artificial sweeteners are clearly bad, this doesn’t mean you should go all out on the natural stuff either. If you are a sugar nut, try getting your sweet kick naturally – from fresh fruits and some sweeter vegetables, such as carrot and beetroot, instead of resorting to the candy jar and chocolate bars. If you are not concerned about your fructose intake, some natural fruits are extremely sweet – think figs, medjool dates etc. so if you prefer to get your sugar high naturally, turn to these before considering other, less favourable, options.