Could Artificial Sweeteners Be Causing You To Gain Weight?

Before you grab for that diet soft drink, take a minute to consider what you're actually putting in your body. While artificial sweeteners have been touted for their reduced calories, they haven't exactly lived up to the expectations. In fact, they might be doing just the opposite: promoting weight gain and type 2 diabetes as well as disrupting your digestive tract.

We all know that drinking diet soft drinks while continuing to eat large meals isn't going to trim your waistline. But reducing calories by consuming artificially sweetened drinks and foods seems like a good place to start when you're trying to lose weight - right? Not necessarily. A 2014 study published in Nature found an increase in obesity and fasting blood sugar in individuals who consumed the artificial sweeteners on a regular basis.1

Sweet enough already?

One reason offered for why artificial sweeteners have been linked to weight gain and type 2 diabetes has to do with the trick they play on your mind and body. Taste buds for sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and even protein (called umami) are all connected with your brain. When you eat something sweet and sugary, the taste receptor cells in the brain and gut are activated, preparing your body for an intake of calories in the form of carbohydrates. Your body assumes it'll be getting the calories (energy) it needs to carry out bodily functions.

Artificial sweeteners provide plenty of sweetness (up to 100 times that of sugar)with little or no calories and zero nutritional value. It is theorized that when your body doesn't get the calories it was expecting along with that taste of sweetness, you'll still feel hungry and eat or drink even more.2,3 A study conducted by the University of Texas found that individuals who drank more than 21 diet sodas a week were almost twice as likely to be overweight or obese than those who didn't drink any artificially sweetened sodas.4 While more studies are needed to better support this theory, it should make you stop and take a good look at your own eating and drinking habits.

Skip the diet soda in favor of a glass of water

If you're trying to lose weight and have been using artificial sweeteners help you reach your goal, you should also consider the effect they have on your gut. Suez, et al found that artificial sweeteners altered the type of gut bacteria in individuals who consumed them.5,6 It might not sound like a big deal to you, but this finding linked these changes with glucose intolerance - something which can lead to diabetes - in these same individuals. Add to that the growing body of evidence for the fact that your gut bacteria play a crucial role in your overall health and you might just want to skip that diet soda in favor of a glass of water. You'll be glad you did because drinking water instead of diet beverages has been shown to promote weight loss when compared with diet beverages.7

Be on the Lookout for Hidden Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners have been around for decades and they can now be found everywhere: in foods and beverages where you'd expect them - like soft drinks - but also ones where you wouldn't expect to find them - like high fiber cereals and English muffins. While new labeling regulations require that the amount of added sugars be listed, you still need to read the list of ingredients to see if any artificial sweeteners have been added.

One of the best things you can do to lose weight is to wean yourself off of sugar and artificial sweeteners and to start using healthier alternatives like honey or stevia. Going on a supervised detoxification diet can help you to reset your taste buds so that you prefer the healthy sweetness of fruit to the taste of sugar and sugar substitutes. Ask your healthcare practitioner if a detoxification diet is right for you. For more information on how you can make healthy changes to your lifestyle so that you can lose weight and keep it off, contact us today.


1 Suez J. Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intoklerance by altering the gut microbiota. Nature. 2014; 514(7521): 181-6.

2 Pereira MA Sugar-Sweetened and Artificially-Sweetend Beverages in Relation to Obesity Risk. Adv. Nutr. 2014 Nov; 5(6):797-808.

3 Swithers SE. Artificial sweeteners induce the counterintuitive effect of inducing metabolic derangements. Trends in Endocrinol Metab. 2013 Sep; 24(9): 431-441.

4 Fowler SP, et al. Fueling the obesity epidemic? Artificially sweetened beverage use and long-term weight gain. Obesity (Silver Spring) 2008;16:1894–1900.

5 David LA et al. Diet rapidly and reproducibly alters the human gut microbiome. Nature. 2014 Jan 23; 505(7484):559-63.

6 Suez J et al Non-caloric artificial sweeteners and the microbiome: findings and challenges. Gut Microbes.

2015; 6(2): 149-155.

7 Madjd AI etal Effects of weight loss in adults on replacing diet beverages with water during a hypoenergeticdiet: a randomized, 24 week clinical trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Dec; 102(60:1305-12.

The contents of this blog are intended for educational purposes only. The information presented here is not a substitute for proper medical attention, diagnosis, or treatment by a qualified healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your healthcare provider before starting or making any changes to an existing treatment plan, exercise program or dietary regimen, and before using nutritional supplements.

~ Dr. Sarah Williams ~ Concord & Nantucket, Massachusetts ~

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