Artificial Sweeteners and Weight Gain

Nov 5, 2018 | Nutrition

Artificial sweeteners & weight gain


Artificial sweeteners and weight gain?  I know it sounds counter-intuitive but there are studies to show that rather than decreasing weight, artificial sweeteners may actually result in weight gain.

Research linking Artificial Sweeteners and Weight Gain

There is a great deal of advertising and promotion of the benefits of low calorie, low sugar products with the use of artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are also called sugar replacers or non-nutritive sweeteners. Some commonly used artificial sweeteners are saccharin, aspartame, Splenda and stevia.

There has been research linking artificial sweeteners with many conditions ranging from mild conditions such as headaches and dizziness, to mood disorders, through to fibromyalgia, seizures, type 2 diabetes and cancers.

However, we are now discovering that not only could artificial sweeteners cause disease, there may also be a link between artificial sweeteners and weight gain. The one thing that they were intended to prevent!

Artificial Sweeteners and Sugar Cravings

A study conducted by Yale University looked at the link between artificial sweeteners and sugar cravings  and concluded:

“artificial sweeteners, precisely because they are sweet, encourage sugar craving and sugar dependence”

“Sweetness decoupled from caloric content offers partial, but not complete, activation of the food reward pathways. …. Animals seek food to satisfy the inherent craving for sweetness, even in the absence of energy need. Lack of complete satisfaction, likely because of the failure to activate the post ingestive component, further fuels the food-seeking behaviour. Reduction in reward response may contribute to obesity”


Artificial Sweeteners Heart Disease and Weight Gain

A review conducted by the University of Manitoba investigated Nonnutritive sweeteners and cardiometabolic health and BMI. The review covered

  • 11 774 citations and included 7 trials, covering 1003 participants with a median follow-up of 6 months and
  • 30 cohort studies covering 405 907 participants with a median follow-up of 10 years.

They concluded that:

“Evidence from RCTs [randomised control trials] does not clearly support the intended benefits of nonnutritive sweeteners for weight management [weight loss], and observational data suggest that routine intake of nonnutritive sweeteners may be associated with increased BMI [increased weight] and cardiometabolic risk [diabetes, heart disease or stroke]”


Artificial Sweeteners Heart Disease and Strokes

Recent research published by the American Heart Association journal on 1 March 2019 examined the link between Artificially Sweetened Beverages and Stroke, Coronary Heart Disease, and All-Cause Mortality in US postmenopausal women. The comprehensive study included 81,714 postmenopausal women of ages 50 to 79 years from an original total of 93 676 women and spanned over the years of 1993 to 1998. The study had a mean follow-up time of 11.9 years. Only participants who completed a follow-up visit 3 years after the baseline were included in the study.

The conclusion of the study was:

“Higher intake of artificially sweetened beverages was associated with increased risk of stroke, particularly small artery occlusion subtype, coronary heart disease, and all-cause mortality.”

“Intake of saccharin, acesulfame-potassium, or stevia and saccharin have been linked to weight gain and increased adiposity. Additionally, saccharin and aspartame have been also associated with impaired glucose homeostasis and hyperinsulinemia.”

Source: AHA Journals


Artificial Sweeteners Diabetes and Obesity

Research presented at Experimental Biology in April 2018, entitled: Why zero-calorie sweeteners can still lead to diabetes, obesity concluded:

“This study found that sugar replacements can also cause health changes that are linked with diabetes and obesity, suggesting that switching from regular to diet soda may be a case of ‘out of the frying pan, into the fire.’”

“This new study is the largest examination to date that tracks biochemical changes in the body — using an approach known as unbiased high-throughput metabolomics — after consumption of sugar or sugar substitutes. Researchers also looked at impacts on vascular health by studying how the substances affect the lining of blood vessels. The studies were conducted in rats and cell cultures.”

“Despite the addition of these non-caloric artificial sweeteners to our everyday diets, there has still been a drastic rise in obesity and diabetes,” said lead researcher Brian Hoffmann, PhD, assistant professor in the department of biomedical engineering at the Medical College of Wisconsin and Marquette University. “In our studies, both sugar and artificial sweeteners seem to exhibit negative effects linked to obesity and diabetes, albeit through very different mechanisms from each other.”

Source: Science Daily


Artificial Sweeteners and Obesity

 Research conducted by the University of Texas and the University of Louisville entitled The Association Between Artificial Sweeteners and Obesity aimed to find the effects of artificial sweeteners on the microbiome, the gut-brain axis, glucose homeostasis, and energy consumption; and to discuss how all of these changes ultimately contribute to obesity

“Data in both animal models and humans suggest that the effects of artificial sweeteners may contribute to metabolic syndrome and the obesity epidemic. Artificial sweeteners appear to change the host microbiome, lead to decreased satiety, and alter glucose homeostasis, and are associated with increased caloric consumption and weight gain. Artificial sweeteners are marketed as a healthy alternative to sugar and as a tool for weight loss. Data however suggests that the intended effects do not correlate with what is seen in clinical practice. “

Source: PubMed

 Which, in layman’s terms, means that artificial sweeteners lead to increased hunger and increased food intake and eventual weight gain.


Artificial Sweeteners Heart Disease, Diabetes and Obesity

 Research conducted in June 2016 entitled Artificial sweeteners and metabolic dysregulation, conducted by the University of Calgary, and Purdue University, aimed to find out if there was a link between artificial sweeteners and metabolic derangements that lead to obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

“Associations observed in long-term prospective studies raise the concern that regular consumption of artificial sweeteners might actually contribute to the development of metabolic derangements that lead to obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.”…


… “Results from animal studies in both the agricultural sector and the laboratory indicate that artificial sweeteners may not only promote food intake and weight gain but can also induce metabolic alterations in a wide range of animal species”

Source: PubMed


Do artificial sweeteners make you gain weight?

Studies have shown that artificial sweeteners lead to increased hunger and increased food intake leading to eventual weight gain and obesity. In addition, studies have also shown that artificial sweeteners have an adverse effect on the gut microbiome and can lead to other health changes such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and metabolic dysregulation.


The Association Between Artificial Sweeteners and Obesity

Gain weight by “going diet?” Artificial sweeteners and the neurobiology of sugar cravings

Artificial sweeteners: Where do we stand?

Artificially Sweetened Beverages and Stroke, Coronary Heart Disease, and All-Cause Mortality in the Women’s Health Initiative

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