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So, to sweeten or not to sweeten? If your goal is to lose weight, these artificial sugars may help you drop calories—but not always. Cancer concerns aside, researchers are finding new reasons that these no-cal taste enhancers are posing undue health risks without fulfilling the promise of helping you lose weight. Here are seven.
They trick your taste buds
Artificial sweeteners, even natural ones like stevia, which comes from an herb, are hundreds, sometimes thousands, of times sweeter than sugar, says Anne Alexander, author of The Sugar Smart Diet. Sucralose, sold under the brand name Splenda, is 600 times sweeter than table sugar, and neotame, an emerging alternative to aspartame, is 7,000 times sweeter.
Stevia is 200 to 300 times sweeter than table sugar. "And evidence suggests that exposing your taste buds to these high-intensity sweeteners makes them less receptive to natural sources of sweetness such as fruit," says Alexander. When your taste buds get dulled, you're more likely to seek out sweeter and sweeter foods.
They trick your gut
Susan Swithers, PhD, professor of behavioral neuroscience at Purdue University and a leading researcher on artificial sweeteners, says that your gut gets confused when you eat zero-calorie-but-super-sweet artificial sweeteners. The sweet taste sends a signal to your gut that something high calorie is on its way, so your gut anticipates foods that do, in fact, have a high calorie count. But when those don't arrive, your gut doesn't utilize the foods efficiently, and that causes a cascading effect that interferes with your body's hunger signals.
They mess with your hormones
Part of that cascading effect has to do with the hormone insulin. When you taste sweet foods, even if they have zero calories, your body still releases insulin as if you'd eaten sugar. Insulin leads to blood...