Do you usually reach for diet soda (or any other sugar-free treats) to satisfy your sweet tooth? I’m sorry to say that I have bad news for you. It seems that the artificial sweeteners present in many diet foods and beverages can actually cause weight gain in the long run. An article published on the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine revised several studies correlating artificial sweeteners and obesity rates. Experiments point out that sweet taste stimulates appetite. However, when sweetness is not accompanied with its correspondent calories, the response to eat more may be exacerbated. This is because sugar activates food reward pathways in the brain, creating a pleasurable sensation. The problem is that artificial sweeteners can’t seem to generate the same response, and don’t lead to full satisfaction. This means that you will keep looking for more to try to satisfy your needs. Besides, it seems that when your tongue perceives the taste of sweet, your body expects a certain amount of calories with it, and if these calories don’t come in, the brain triggers a compensatory overeating behavior in order to fulfill its expectations.
So, what would be the best approach? Until more studies are done to prove that non-caloric sweeteners are safe, it would be prudent to avoid artificial sweeteners altogether. Maybe the best recommendation would be to consume sweet treats in moderation in order to keep your weight at bay. In addition, reducing systematically your ingestion of sweets may change your own taste preferences, and maybe at one point candies won’t seem so attractive.
Ross, J. “You Are What You Think You Eat.” ACE Certified News. September, 2012.
Yang, Q. “Gain Weight by “Going Diet?” Artificial Sweeteners and The Neurobiology Of Sugar Cravings.” Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine. June, 2010.