Here we are! Finally at the letter Z😊
I didn’t have a lot of options with this letter, but I think this is a great way to wrap up this A to Z challenge.
Currently, the FDA has approved five artificial sweeteners: saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, and sucralose. It has also approved one natural low-calorie sweetener, stevia (my personal favorite😊)
Check out the last column. Obviously not all sweeteners are the same! The fact that each of these is so much sweeter than natural occurring sugar, without the same calorie cost, may be causing some significant problems.
One theory is that the use of these products has changed the way we percieve sweetness. Since a small amount of each of these can elicit a sweet sensation, hundreds to thousands of times greater than real sugar, the receptors in our brains that register the presence of sugar, are altered over time. Once they are changed the binding of natural sugar cannot meet that threshold, so we take in more sugar. Fruit can no longer taste sweet enough and vegetables may be unpalatable.
We then crave more sweetness, so we tend to choose sweets over whole nutritious foods to meet that new higher threshold.
There are many studies that back up this theory. In one human study participants who drank more than 21 diet drinks per week were twice as likely to become overweight or obese, than those who did not drink any at all.
Of course there have been numerous animal studies which have linked artificial sweeteners to that same reward pathway in the brain. The result show that artificial sweeteners may be addictive. Rats were exposed to cocaine then given the choice of cocaine or saccharine, most chose saccharine.
Of course, rodent studies don’t always translate to people, it is important to remember that! However, the links to obesity, metabolic syndrome and type II diabetes can not be overlooked. One human study showed a 36% correlation with metabolic syndrome and 67% correlation to type II diabetes, which are quite high percentages! Additionally artificial sweeteners have been shown to interfere with the absorption of certain medicines and may harm the beneficial gut flora needed for overall digestive health.
Can zero calorie sweeteners be part of a healthy weight loss plan?
Yes, but moderation is the key! Study participants did loose weight, in the short term, when using diet drinks sparingly and as part of a healthy eating plan. The goal is to not treat them as “free foods”, there is a cost associated with all consumables.
One of the misperceptions is that diet drinks don’t count. The attitude that if I have a diet drink, I have room in my diet for cake, is not correct! I have been out with friends who have used this rationale many times, and then complain that they have been so good, but can’t loose weight. 😳
“Artificial sweeteners [are] a crutch that don’t force people to deal with deeper issues of regulating calorie intake and making healthier food choices,” says psychologist Ramani Durvasula author of You Are WHY You Eat: Change Your Food Attitude, Change Your Life.
If you have a 12oz. of Diet Coke a day, or use a packet of Splenda in your morning cup of coffee, you can still have a healthy diet. But, think about cutting back here or there, see if you really notice that reduction, and if not, then more power to you😊