Sunday, March 20, 2011

Putting on weight with Artificial Sweeteners

There are many different brands of sweeteners available, and the most commonly used one is Aspartame.  Increasingly, people are also turning to Splenda (sucralose) and Stevia.

These sweeteners contain almost no calories, so they seem to be a great alternative to sugar.  However, a fair amount of research suggests sweeteners are not helping people lose weight.  They may even be doing the opposite by suppressing the body's natural satiety signals and causing more food to be eaten.

According to a study recently published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition,
Previous research has suggested that the gut hormones peptide YY (PYY) and glucagon-like peptide (GLP)-1 are released from intestinal cells after a meal (post-prandially) in proportion to the amount of energy ingested.

Once released PYY and GLP-1 are known to be satiety factors. The mechanisms by which energy rich nutrients stimulate the release of GLP-1 and PYY from intestinal cells remain poorly understood, however it is believed that an intestinal sweet taste receptor may play a key role.
This means that normally, the body sends out signals that you are full soon after you have eaten a meal.  The study found that consumption of sucralose did not, however result in satiety signals.

There are various studies looking at this, and it is still poorly understood exactly what is going on.

It's also quite possible that psychology plays a role.  If you're feeling virtuous because you're eating something that contains no sugar, it's entirely feasible that you will be tempted to grab another from the plate.

This is definitely not an invitation to go back to putting sugar in your food.

Rather be aware of what's going on, and use this knowledge to make smarter choices where possible. 

Think about our culture of baking, and consider preparing alternative foods that don't need additional sweetening.  Like a bowl of plain yoghurt with a handful of berries or toasted almonds, for example.  Or some cheese or a cup of tea or coffee.  As you move away from sweet treats, you will find you don't miss them as much anymore and that you are satisfied with much smaller quantities of sweetness.

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