Don't Be Fooled by Substitute Sweeteners

December 16,2016

It is easy to assume that "Low" to "Zero" calories" is a great way to go when you're trying to watch your weight during the Holiday season. At least many of the food product manufacturers would like you to believe that. After all, if it takes energy (calories burned) to eat, drink and digest food, then starting at or near zero should result in a negligible consumption of calories and no chance of weight gain. Assuming this is a true statement, there should be nothing wrong with overindulging during the holidays as long as the food or drink was prepared using a low to no-calorie sugar substitute. Unfortunately, this is a diet myth not a reality.


If you still believe that consuming low or calorie-free foods and beverages cannot result in weight gain, consider the fact that as the use of artificial sweeteners have doubled over the past twenty years, so has the obesity rate in our country. So, what's the catch? According to researchers at Purdue University, you can't ignore the science or laws of nutrition that govern how your body reacts to food. The intense sweet taste of low-calorie products (which can exceed that of products containing natural sugars) still triggers the digestive system to be prepared to process calories. With your senses dulled, your body is tricked into a fat-storage mode that can result in weight gain.


Although artificial sweeteners certainly have their place, it is important that you understand how sugar substitutes like aspartame, saccharin, sucralose and sugar alcohols confuse the body and cause a slowdown that can increase your risk of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome describes medical conditions like high blood pressure, bad cholesterol levels and increase in belly fat that can put you at risk for Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. At the University of Texas, scientists discovered that everyday diet soda drinkers had a 70% increase in waist circumference compared to non-drinkers. So, before you overindulge on sugar substitutes, understand it is very unlikely that the food or drink is doing your body any good.


What will work well for those watching their weight during the holidays are healthy low-calorie food and drink options. Water has virtually no calories and is essential for many of your bodily processes, so add a slice of lime to a glass of regular or carbonated water. At mealtime, add nutrient-rich fruits, leafy greens and root vegetables to your holiday plate. If you are serious about watching your weight, the bottom line is to avoid over-consumption of processed foods, sugary drinks, fast foods and products containing hard-to-pronounce ingredients, including the laundry list of artificial sweeteners.


Before you make a New Year's resolution to shed a few pounds, schedule an appointment at PrimeMED for an annual checkup and discuss your weight loss goals with our board-certified physician.