How to Avoid Artificial Sweetener Weight Gain Risks

Three Parts:Recognizing Artificial SweetenersImproving Your DietMaking Lifestyle Changes

If you're trying to lose weight, you may struggle with turning down that extra piece of cake, pastry or other sweet. It's hard to control sugar intake, especially since researchers consider sugar to be a drug with addictive properties.[1][2] Since sugar contributes to tooth decay, obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and chronic inflammation it's important to reduce your intake even if you're not trying to lose weight.[3] Many people use artificial sweeteners to replace sugar and the calories that come with it. Artificial sweeteners work by fooling the tongue and brain into perceiving sweetness. Unfortunately, some studies have linked artificial sweetener use with weight gain.[4] To avoid this, learn to recognize artificial sweeteners and consume them wisely while making improvements to your diet.

Part 1
Recognizing Artificial Sweeteners

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    Know your recommended daily sugar intake. The American Heart Association recommends that women eat less than 6 teaspoons (25 grams) of sugar a day and that men eat less than 9 teaspoons (37.5 grams) of sugar a day.[5] You should also pay attention to how many calories are in the alternative sweeteners you use.
    • There are essentially two types of alternative sweeteners: artificial sweeteners and natural table sugar (sucrose) substitutes. Each teaspoon of sucrose has 16 calories.
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    Read nutrition labels for artificial sweeteners. Since you should be paying attention to your artificial sweetener and sugar intake, read ingredient labels for common artificial sweeteners. Be in the habit of reading all food labels since many foods include artificial sweeteners. Look for acesulfame potassium, aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose. You should also be able to recognize natural sweeteners and sugar substitutes like:
    • Sugar alcohols: sorbitol, xylitol, and mannitol
    • Agave nectar
    • High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
    • Honey
    • Stevia/ Rebiana
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    Avoid drinking artificially sweetened drinks. Research is conflicted about whether or not artificially sweetened drinks reduce calorie intake which can help you lose weight.[6] One large long-term study actually showed a 47% increase in the Body Mass Index (BMI) of participants who drank artificially sweetened drinks.[7] Avoid or limit your intake of artificially sweetened drinks to avoid weight gain.
    • Another study found an increased risk of Type-2 diabetes in people who drink sugar or artificially sweetened drinks. Artificially sweetened drinks like sodas have also been linked to greater risk of heart disease and metabolic syndrome.[8]
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    Use honey. Instead of using artificial sweeteners that offer no nutritional value, consider replacing them with honey which has trace amounts of vitamins and minerals.[9] Unlike artificial sweeteners, honey has not been linked to weight gain. Instead, research has shown honey can promote lower weight gain compared to sugar.[10]
    • One tablespoon of honey contains 64 calories, which is more than table sugar, so use it in small amounts.[11]
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    Try stevia. Instead of artificial sweeteners, use the plant-based sweetener stevia. Studies have shown that stevia is an effective sugar replacement that prevents overeating and satisfies hunger.[12] Using stevia may make it easier to lose weight and avoid the weight gain from more common artificial sweeteners.
    • Research also suggests that stevia may help regulate blood sugar, making it a good choice for diabetics.[13]

Part 2
Improving Your Diet

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    Determine how many calories you need. Use an online calculator that figures how many calories you need. The calculator will consider your age, sex, height, weight, current exercise level, and any health considerations (like whether or not you're breastfeeding).[14]
    • You can also talk with your doctor and ask for a daily calorie recommendation. Make sure your doctor knows you'd like to prevent gaining weight.
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    Watch your calorie intake. Use a calorie tracking application on your phone or keep track of your daily calorie intake using an online database or the nutrition label for food. Once you've determined the calories for each meal and snacks of the day, compare the calories you consumed for the day against your recommended calorie intake.[15]
    • If you see that you fall close within the recommended range, continue to track and monitor your caloric intake. But, if you see that you're gaining weight and eating too many calories, start eating less.
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    Reduce your serving sizes. Just because you've replaced sugar with artificial sweeteners doesn't mean you can eat as much as you like. It's actually more important to pay attention to serving sizes and portions when you use artificial sweeteners. Studies show that weight gain from artificial sweeteners is caused by disrupting the brain's response to sugar.[16]
    • This means your brain prepares to receive calories, but the calories don't appear because you're not eating sugar. Instead, you're eating zero calorie artificial sweeteners. The result is that your body doesn't secrete insulin properly, you don't feel full, and hormones that regulate your appetite are disrupted, making you more likely to overeat.
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    Drink lots of water. You should always try to drink 8 eight-ounce glasses of water a day to help your body function efficiently. Try to drink a glass of water 30 minutes before you eat a meal. It will help signal to your body that you feel full sooner so you won't want to eat as much food. Studies have shown that people who drank water before meals were 44% more likely to lose weight.[17][18]
    • Replace diet sodas or sweet beverages with water, milk, or tea. Not only will these count towards your daily water intake, but they contain fewer sweeteners.
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    Avoid skipping meals. While you may think that swapping sugar for artificial sweeteners and skipping meals will help you lose weight quickly, you're actually making it harder for your body to process calories efficiently. Eating meals regularly gives your body the energy it needs and it means you'll be less hungry throughout the day (which prevents you from overeating at your next meal).[19]
    • Eating regular meals will also keep your blood sugar stable.
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    Include probiotics. Several studies suggest that artificial sweeteners cause weight gain because they change the bacteria in the gut.[20][21][22] Bacteria can have a profound impact on weight control. To keep a healthy balance of bacteria in your gut, include probiotic foods in your diet. These can also improve your digestion.[23] Good sources of probiotics include:
    • Yogurt
    • Soy products
    • Miso
    • Kefir

Part 3
Making Lifestyle Changes

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    Exercise. If you want to prevent weight gain or are actively trying to lose weight, you must burn calories through exercising. Try to get about 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week. If you can, include a mix of aerobic activity and muscle-strengthening exercises. Some good physical activities include:[24]
    • Swimming
    • Biking
    • Running or jogging
    • Dancing
    • Water aerobics
    • Lifting weights
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    Manage stress. Not only can stress make it harder for you to eat healthy, it can also make you eat more than usual. Learning how to handle your stress will help you avoid weight gain and feel more in control of your life. To avoid gaining weight because of stress:[25]
    • Before you eat, ask yourself if you're really hungry or eating because of your emotions.
    • Don't keep comfort foods at home.
    • Distract yourself if you want to eat when you're not hungry.
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    Learn how to eat mindfully. Slow down when you eat and consider everything you're experiencing. Try to enjoy the flavors, textures, and smell of the food. Over time, you may find that you don't need to eat as much food to enjoy it.[26]
    • Avoid situations where you're rushed or distracted when eating, like working on the computer and snacking. If you have to eat under these conditions, be sure to set out a portion of food rather than eat right out of a bag or box.
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    Create a support network. Friends, family, and coworkers can all form a supportive network for you to go to when you're feeling stressed out or anxious about weight gain. This doesn't need to be a formal organization. It's just important for you to know that you have people who will help you through the challenges of tracking calories and making healthy lifestyle choices.[27]
    • For example, if you're really having a hard time giving up your sweetened coffee drink every afternoon, tell the coworker that you usually meet up with during your break. Your coworker can support your decision, helping you stick with it.

Sources and Citations

  1. Ahmed, SH, Guillem, K., Vandaele. Y., Sugar addiction: pushing the drug-sugar analogy to the limit. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2013 Jul;16(4):434-9.
  2. Lenoir, M, Serre, F, Cantin, L, Ahmed, SH. Intense sweetness surpasses cocaine reward. PLoS One. 2007 Aug 1;2(8):e698.
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Categories: Losing Weight