With the rate of obesity climbing in the United States, many experts are blaming the expanding girth of Americans on the public’s fascination with processed foods, particularly those high in sugar and fat. To counteract this growing problem, companies are rushing to put out a variety of calorie free sweeteners to satisfy the American sweet tooth without adding unwanted calories. Do these calorie free sweeteners help to promote weight loss?
The reality? Calorie free sweeteners may not be such a sweet deal after all. Some studies suggest that using calorie free sweeteners only serves to increase the desire for food by giving the tongue a sweet taste without delivering the goods in the form of energy for the body. In other words, when the body tastes the sweetness of a no calorie sweetener, it expects calories to follow. When they don’t, the body fails to send the message to the brain that it’s full and you continue to crave food. The result? You continue eating past the point where you should have been full.
Another problem with calorie free sweeteners is when you constantly stimulate your “sweet tooth” with the taste of sugar, you do nothing to tame your carbohydrate addiction. If anything, you make it worse. As a result, you continue to crave the taste of the same sweet treats that got you into trouble in the first place.
On the other hand, if you substitute calorie free sweeteners for sugar and continue to consume the same amount of food you did before switching sweeteners, it would stand to reason that you would lose weight because you’re taking in fewer calories. The problem is when some people use no calorie sweeteners, they grant themselves the right to eat more since it’s “sugar free”. For some, no calorie sweeteners are a license to overindulge. Instead of the expected weight loss, they end up with pants that are tighter than ever.
Lastly, calorie free sweeteners do nothing to help change bad eating habits. If weight control is to be successful long term, new eating habits must be acquired. This includes an emphasis on fruits, vegetables, and lean forms of protein rather than cookies and cakes sweetened with no calorie sweeteners. Gradually eliminating processed foods and foods with empty calories is a much healthier option than using no calorie sweeteners to eat more of the wrong foods.
The bottom line? The next time you’re tempted to reach for that sugar free cookie or add a packet of calorie free sweetener to your cereal, ask yourself if it’s really in your best interest in the long term. Maybe it would be better to have fresh fruit for a snack or sweeten your cereal with a little applesauce instead. In this case, natural may be better.