It’s official! Artificial sweeteners are actually detrimental to weight loss. It has become clear from recent scientific studies that increased consumption of diet soda leads to weight gain. How can this be?
The explanation is pretty simple. When you drink diet soda, your body recognizes the sweet flavor to mean that carbohydrates are on the way to the stomach. When your body is expecting carbohydrates, its typical reaction is to release insulin in the blood. Insulin is the hormone that lowers your blood sugar by moving it into the tissues and organs. When new food is digested, that food has to go somewhere or else your blood sugar will become too high. Insulin is a good thing! It allows your body to use the energy of food.
Let’s look at artificial sweeteners for a minute…they don’t have any energy for your body to use. They’re really just chemicals designed to mimic the taste of sugar. When you drink a diet soda, your body expects energy and there isn’t any there. What is the response? HUNGER. Artificial sweeteners cause hunger. Hunger causes you to eat more…and subsequently gain weight.
If you drink diet soda, you’ve probably noticed that artificial sweeteners are much sweeter than table sugar. This causes a stronger insulin response and actually dulls your senses. The foods you eat have to be really sweet to taste sweet. This explains why vegetables and wholesome foods don’t taste good to most people. Those who consume a lot of artificial sweeteners often become picky eaters. Picky eaters tend to gravitate towards comfort foods, which arecarbohydrates (triggers the insulin response)…which leads to weight gain. It’s amazing how a cycle like this changes our relationship to food!
The safety of artificial sweeteners has always been in question. Aspartame has a long and complicated history. It took longer to get passed by the FDA than any other food additive. People with compromised barriers in their body can have terrible reactions in their brain as the aspartame triggers a neurochemical cascade that causes nerves to fire again and again until they die. Yikes!
In some individuals, the same thing can happen from consuming MSG. If you ever feel poorly after eating foods with artificial sweeteners or MSG, avoid them! Keep in mind that you might have reactions to these foods, but the reactions have become a normal state of your everyday aches and pains or fatigue. If you want to find out what your real reaction is to them, take them out of your diet for 6 weeks. You’ll know for sure!
Hunger vs. Appetite…Why It Matters
An appetite is what makes food appealing to you. Without an appetite, food is nothing more than edible. With a good appetite, subtle flavors are enjoyable. You want to eat a real meal, not just snack.
Contrast that to hunger, which is your body telling you that it needs fuel fast! Hunger is not good. At first, it’s like the fuel reserve light in your car…just a reminder that you need to eat. Not long after that, it becomes the activator of the stress system. Hunger is real stress to your body! Chemicals and hormones that cause all of the damage caused by stress are released at this point and continue to be released until the hunger signal is gone.
Hunger vs. appetite is something like the gas in your car’s tank. Having 1/8th of a tank of gas is like having an appetite. You could fill it up now or you could fill it up in a few miles. Either way, the car still drives normally with full power and function. Hunger is like running out of gas. The engine sputters and you have to fill the tank up NOW.
Have you ever felt hungry, tired, moody, irritable, had trouble concentrating, had sugar cravings or gotten sleepy because you needed to eat? Or have you ever eaten and found that you now have more energy? This means that you were hungry and you may have ignored it.
If you go hungry at some point everyday (and most people do), the damage can really add up. Low energy, poor concentration, mental fatigue and irritability are all signs of your brain shutting down due to low fuel. It really impacts neurotransmitters which can alter your hormones and your immune system. We regularly notice that when our patients begin to eat breakfast, 50% of their symptoms clear up in a week.
We say it all the time…eating regularly will keep your blood sugar and energy steady all day long. You will notice an appetite for food at mealtimes, but you will be able to choose to eat now (or in a short while) without any symptoms if you wait. That’s what a healthy appetite with good blood sugar control looks like!