Here we go again. I’ve written to you before about the trouble with sugar substitutes. The makers of these products claim they will help you satisfy your sweet tooth, while helping you manage your weight.
The only problem? They don’t work!
In fact, time and time again research has linked these sugar substitutes to weight gain. Experts say that in some cases they may even cause metabolic dysfunction that triggers your body to crank our MORE fat.
For example, researchers say the artificial sweetener sucralose (Splenda) triggers fat-producing stem cells to go into overdrive pumping out gobs of fat and becoming inflamed.
And were’ not just talking about cells in the lab here. When the same scientists compared abdominal fat samples from a group of folks who regularly ate sucralose to one that avoided sugar substitutes like the plague, they confirmed fat-production in the sucralose eaters was working overtime too.1
And that was just one of a growing stack of studies that have linked sugar substitutes—such as aspartame, saccharin and sucralose—to weight gain, a larger waist size and even a higher risk of diabetes.2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9
Sugar substitutes linked to the Freshmen 15
Now researchers from Cornell University say we have another sugar replacement product we may need to add to the list.
The sugar alcohol erythritol is found naturally in certain fruits such as pears. And if we had left it there, we’d be fine. But food manufacturers decided to extract erythritol to use as a sugar replacement in low-cal foods, and that’s where things went south.
You’ve heard of the legendary “Freshman 15,” right? It’s the weight gain that so many college students fall victim to in their first year at school. Experts say around 75 percent of students experience it, making them the perfect population for researchers to study.
The Cornell researchers worked with scientists at Braunschweig University of Technology in Germany and the University of Luxembourg to look for any clues to what might be contributing to the Freshman 15.
And to everyone’s surprise erythritol stuck out like a sore thumb.
Popular sugar replacement linked to weight gain
The researchers found that the students who packed on the pounds and built up their belly fat over the course of the 12 months had a stunning 15 times higher blood erythritol level at the start of that year than those who didn’t gain weight or lost weight during that first year in college.10
The experts say erythritol is linked to increasing fat mass and weight gain.
Of course we’re only talking about one study here, and we haven’t established a cause and effect relationship yet. Which means more research needs to be done before we can say that erythritol causes weight gain.
But typically where you find smoke there’s also fire. And given what we already know about the history of other sugar substitutes, being cautious just makes sense.
You’ll find erythritol on store shelves under brand names such as Sweet Simplicity, Zero, Zsweet and Truvia (which is half stevia and half erythritol).
1. “Low-calorie sweeteners promote fat accumulation in human fat,” The Endocrine Society, ENDO 2017: The Endocrine Society’s 99th Annual Meeting & Expo, endocrine.org, Accessed: 5/15/2017
2.“Sucralose affects glycemic and hormonal responses to an oral glucose load,” Diabetes Care. 2013, Sep;36(9):2530-5
3 “Cephalic phase insulin release in healthy humans after taste stimulation?.” Appetite. 2008 Nov;51(3):622-7
4. Consumption of artificially and sugar-sweetened beverages and incident type 2 diabetes in the Etude
Epidemiologique aupres des femmes de la Mutuelle Generale de l’Education Nationale-European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition cohort. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013;97(3):517-23
5. “Diet Soda Intake and Risk of Incident Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA),” Diabetes Care 2009 Apr; 32(4): 688-694
6. “Intense sweeteners, energy intake and the control of body weight.” Eur J Clin Nutr. 2007;61:691-700
7. “Dietary patterns matter: diet beverages and cardiometabolic risks in the longitudinal Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) Study,” Am J Clin Nutr April 2012,,vol. 95 no. 4 909-915
8. “Fueling the Obesity Epidemic? Artificially Sweetened Beverage Use and Long-term Weight Gain,” Obesity, Volume 16, Issue 8, August 2008
9. “Diet soda intake is associated with long-term increases in waist circumference in a biethnic cohort of older adults: the San Antonio Longitudinal Study of Aging,” J Am Geriatr Soc. 2015 Apr;63(4):708-15
10. “Erythritol is a pentose-phosphate pathway metabolite and associated with adiposity gain in young adults,” PNAS 2017; published ahead of print May 8, 2017
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