Now that sugar has been rightly condemned for the obesity epidemic are we going to see an even greater increase in the number of people who are over-weight or obese as we turn to artificial sweeteners?
As food manufacturers attempt to support people in their quest to reduce sugar consumption by replacing sugar with sweeteners, research is clearly indicating a correlation between artificial sweeteners and obesity.
A recent study published in the journal PLoS One involving 1455 male and female participants over a ten-year period clearly showed that sweeteners are associated with heavier weight, larger waists and increased abdominal obesity, a strong risk factor in CVD and mortality (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27880832)
You might think that those who are more concerned about their weight or who are diabetic are more likely to consume sweeteners hence the correlation. The researchers however thought about that and have disproved this possible correlation. The researchers state that the participants who reported low-calorie sweetener use and did not have obesity at baseline (start of study) had a significantly greater cumulative incidence of obesity than participants who did not use sweeteners.
So why are sweeteners bad for me?
These researchers put it down to artificial sweetener reducing glucose tolerance by disturbing and altering gut flora. They found that by changing the gut flora, more energy harvesting pathways associated with obesity are activated.
So what should I do?
Replacing sugar with artificial sweeteners is not advisable. There are many products that claim to be natural but are so highly processed and combined with synthetic compounds to make them cheaper that they are not recommended.
A safer bet is simply to go easy on sugar. Avoid savoury foods with any added sugar or sweeteners, eliminate cereals with added sugars and gradually cut down on the amount of sugar used in baking. Go for oat-based biscuits such as Nairn’s which have far less sugar in than most biscuits and select chocolate that has a higher cocoa content. In time your palate will adapt and you will end up finding conventional cakes and Cadbury’s chocolate ridiculously sweet!
Ref: Chronic Low-Calorie Sweetener Use and Risk of Abdominal Obesity among Older Adults: A Cohort Study (Chia et al, 2016)