Sometimes new research uncovers a startling truth that changes everything. Perhaps it reveals a flaw in a sacred cow belief of the mainstream. Or maybe it provides us with a completely new way of viewing the world.
But then there are those times when research simply confirms what many of us suspected all along.
For decades now, folks concerned about their weight or blood sugar have been encouraged to eat and drink foods made with artificial sweeteners. So-called experts from doctors to dieticians have insisted they’re perfectly safe.
You can satisfy your sweet tooth without paying a price, they said.
But if you think that sounds too good to be true, you’re right, it is.
Artificial sweeteners confuse your body
Which is why we’ve been telling readers since we hit the web over nine years ago to avoid artificial sweeteners. And that fake sugars are bad news.
We’ve warned that despite being calorie free they mess with your metabolism, and can affect your blood sugar. They monkey with the reward system in your brain. And ironically, instead of encouraging weight loss, artificial sweeteners can cause you to gain weight.
Now a new study, published in the journal Current Biology, has confirmed what we’ve been saying all along.1 Artificial sweeteners wreak havoc with your metabolism.
You see, nature essentially encodes messages to your brain about how much energy is in the foods we eat. Based on the intensity of the food’s sweetness, your body knows how much fuel to expect to get from it.
But artificial sweeteners throw a wrench into that perfectly designed system.
Fake sugars rob your brain of its dopamine reward
Fake sugars taste super sweet when they hit your tongue. Your brain reads that sweetness level and expects the food to contain a lot of energy. And your body’s metabolic system ramps up in response.
But of course, the expected energy in the form of calories never arrives. And your brain doesn’t get that satisfying hit of feel-good dopamine it was expecting.
This can lead to overeating, as you unconsciously chase the satisfaction that you never got when you ate the food with the fake sugar. And, over time, researchers suspect it could change your brain’s response to anything sweet.
The result? Obesity and blood sugar problems, exactly what most folks who drink and eat foods with fake sugars are trying to avoid in the first place.
Diet soda and carbs are a metabolic disaster
The researchers at Yale University School of Medicine wanted to figure out if the reason humans find sweet foods so rewarding is the calories they contain. In other words, are cravings for sweet foods hard wired into us?
To find out they whipped up five separate beverages using the same amount of the artificial sweetener sucralose. Although each had a different flavor and color, they all tasted as sweet as a drink with about 75 calories of sugar in it.
The calorie levels were then adjusted using a taste free carb, so the drinks ended up with five different calorie counts:
- 0 calories
- 37.5 calories
- 75 calories
- 112.5 calories
- 150 calories
Volunteers drank their soft drinks six times over several weeks, twice in the lab. The researchers tracked their brain’s responses using fMRI. They were shocked to see the medium calorie drink lit up the reward centers in the volunteer’s brains the most. It wasn’t the highest calorie drink as everyone expected.
With more research, and a whole lot of connecting the dots, they finally figured out why. It turns out the drink with the sweetness levels that matched the calorie count, 75 calories, triggered the proper metabolic and brain response.
In other words, when there is a mismatch in sweetness and calories it baffles your body. And as a result, your body doesn’t metabolize the carbs you consume into fuel.
The Yale scientists say their research may help explain the link that other studies have found between some artificial sweeteners and diabetes. We say it confirms what we’ve been saying all along, artificial sweeteners are bad news.
1. “Integration of Sweet Taste and Metabolism Determines Carbohydrate Reward,” Current Biology, August 10, 2017, 0960-9822
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