Artificial Sweeteners May Make Weight Gain Easier

Deborah A. Klein's picture

by Deborah A. Klein

Artificial sweeteners may contribute more to weight gain than food rich in sugar. A study published in the Behavioral Neuroscience Journal has sparked a scientific debate on the role of calorie-free saccharine in obesity.

The study, made by a team from the Purdue University in Indiana, suggested artificial sweeteners, which have zero or very low calories, seem to have destroyed the physiological link between sweet tastes and calories, resulting to rats fed with sweeteners overeating.

In the study, nine rats were given saccharin-sweetened yogurt and eight rats fed yogurt with glucose. After their yogurt, the 17 rats had their regular food. After five weeks the nine gained 80 grams on the average, while the eight added only 72 grams.

Lyn Steffen, an epidemiology associate professor at the University of the Minnesota agreed with the study, although she was not part of it. She said the research provided a possible explanation for apparent links between obesity and sugar-free sodas discovered in some studies on human beings.

Steffen had similar findings published on January at the Circulation medical journal of the American Heart Association. Her study said diet soda drinkers are at higher risk to develop metabolic syndrome compared to those who drink regular soda.

But the Calorie Control Council debunks the two studies. Beth Hubrich, in a statement, said obesity is not caused by one single factor, but dependent on many including larger portions of food, lesser physical activities and higher intake of calories.

In the U.S., the volume of sugar-free products since 2000 had double to 160 million items from less than 70 million in 1987. For the same time frame, obesity among adult Americans climbed up by 30 percent from only 15 percent.

Because of the potential confusion the different findings may indicate about the connection between artificial sweeteners and weight gain, Adam Drewnowski, director of the Nutrition Sciences program of the University of Washington, cautioned against a broad interpretation of the findings.

"It is unreasonable to claim that results obtained studying saccharin in rats translate to every sweetener in humans... We now have studies showing that sugar calories are associated with obesity and the absence of sugar is associated with obesity. Pity those people trying to do something about obesity," Drewnowski said.

Deborah A. Klein, MS, RD is the world's first Livitician®, a term she coined as an alternative to dietician. Her mission is to educate others on achieving optimal wellness through balanced eating, intrinsic coaching and exercise. Deborah holds Master's of Science degree in Foods and Nutrition with an emphasis in sports nutrition. Deborah has a private practice where she educates and offers her clients "A Plan to LIVE for!" She is also the "Ask the Nutrition Expert" at Pregnancy.org.

Deborah lives in Southern California. She is a mother of 2 boys, Hayden (7 years) and Eitan (5 years).

Copyright © Deborah A. Klein. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.