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The Latest Science on Artificial Sweeteners

Some people who are trying to cut back on their sugar intake sometimes turn to low-calorie sweeteners. But new research has found a few good reasons why this might not be such a good idea.

It turns out, making a switch from real sugar to the fake stuff might actually contribute to weight gain in the long run. Before you fill your shopping cart with treats made with sugar substitutes, take a look at what science has to say about artificial sweeteners.

Artificial Sweeteners May Contribute to Weight Gain

A 2017 report published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal summarized existing research on the role that artificial sweeteners play in weight loss. The main goal was to find out if using sweeteners in place of sugar could help people lose weight.

Researchers took a close look at 37 different studies involving alternative sweeteners. Instead of aiding weight loss, sugar substitutes were associated with higher food consumption. Many of the participants actually gained weight. Findings also suggest that eating more artificial sweeteners could be linked to increased risk of obesity, diabetes, and more.

Fake Sugars Can Slow Down Metabolism

Knowing that sugar substitutes may not be great for health is important because it keeps us from making mistakes out of ignorance. Research presented at the annual meeting of the American Physiological Society showed more insight into how sugar substitutes negatively impact the body. This study, conducted on rats, found that replacing sugar with artificial sweeteners negatively changes the way the body burns fat to get energy—in other words, it may slow down metabolism. It also found that overconsumption of artificial sweeteners may damage the lining of blood vessels.

Good News for Sugar Cravings

Not all emerging research on sugar and sugar substances is negative. Given the potential negative outcomes for excessive sugar consumptions and relying on sweeteners to satisfy your sweet tooth, it makes sense that scientists are looking for ways to help people cut back on sweet foods altogether.

Recently, a team of researchers at Columbia University developed a way to manipulate neuron connections in the brains of mice, shutting down the pleasure response triggered after tasting sweets. What we know about sugar cravings is that the pleasure response in the brain is a big part of the sugar cravings cycle. Once that first taste of sugar sends signals to your brain, triggering a pleasure response, your brain responds by asking for more.

Perhaps one day, researchers will find a way to directly shut down the cravings cycle in the brain. In the meantime, there’s Sweet Defeat, a minty lozenge that temporarily blocks the sugar taste receptors on the tongue. By interrupting the sugar cravings cycle, Sweet Defeat is a source of support as you say “no” to the treats that get between you and your healthy living goals.

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