Wednesday, July 16, 2014

No, Artificial Sweeteners Won't Make you Gain Weight

Of course that doesn't mean you should abuse them either.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. First the meta-analysis. Out of the gates, it looks like it was funded by the food industry and no doubt, industry funded studies have been shown to be industry positive. That doesn't mean the results are bunk, but definitely something to consider when evaluating.

The study did what others studies on artificial sweeteners should have done - it looked at them in the context of populations actively involved in weight management and in this case the authors looked at both randomized controlled trials and prospective cohort studies that utilized low calorie sweeteners (LCS). What they didn't include were broad sweeping studies that aimed to tie LCS consumption to weight and I've argued about why this is important before but briefly, if you simply look at all comers when it comes to artificial sweeteners you run the risk of including folks who justify their Mega-Combo by ordering a diet beverage and/or high consumption may represent a greater reliance on restaurant and processed foods as a whole.

So what did the researchers find? Overall of the 15 randomized trials and 9 prospective cohorts identified, the use of LCS did not lead to weight gain, and in the case of the randomized trials, the use of low-calorie sweeteners in place of high calorie ones did in fact lead to weight reduction.

At the end of the day less sweet from all sources should be the goal as regardless of source, sweet affects our palates and conditions us to foods that likely we ought to be minimizing, but if you're trying to manage weight, and you can use LCS to replace their fully-leaded counterparts, I'd say the evidence would suggest LCS products are the lesser evil.

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7 comments:

  1. When I gave up drinking Diet Pepsi the result was I lost 14 lbs of fat and gained 6 pounds of lean mass in 6 weeks, making no other dietary or exercise changes. I was drinking huge quantities of the stuff at the time (upwards of 200+ ounces a day). My experience makes me think it's possible that some component of diet sodas has an effect on hormonal balances and body composition.

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    1. YES yes yes!!!! ^^^^WHAT BOB SAID!

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  2. Anonymous1:52 pm

    I have nothing to base this on but I do not trust large quantities of artificial sweetner. I know I differ from Yoni in this, but I am not confident that these sweetners are safe to use in large amounts as one would in baking.

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  3. Anonymous10:56 am

    Sorry Bob, but correlation is not causation. Did you control for all other variables? Calorie intake? Stress? Amount of sleep? Maybe with less caffeine, you got more and better sleep. That is why science collects data and can test hypotheses, and anecdotes are just anecdotes.

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    1. Right, exactly. I have a story like Bob's, too, but while I was cutting out soda, I was also busy changing my entire diet and exercise habits. I don't credit my success to any one thing because it took a heck of a lot of changes.

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  4. I hate anecdotal evidence, 'cause it isn't.

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  5. Good to see this... I've suspected it, too. Most of the negative commentary on artificial sweeteners I've seen (and heard from people) is that "it will make you want to eat more sweets" or "you'll overcompensate," both of which are behavioral and don't tell me anything about the product. Well, there's the "aspartame turns into formaldehyde in your system" which also doesn't say much. I'll keep enjoying my once-a-month diet soda habit (down from 4 cans a day).

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