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Artificial sweetener and weight gain

Girl drinking water sitting on a couch at home and looking at camera

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Many people choose “diet” versions of their foods because they think they are doing the right thing. In reality, though, “diet” foods may simply have fat replaced with sugar or sugar replaced with artificial sweeteners. In the latter case, the sad irony is that artificial sweeteners may actually increase weight gain as a new study has shown.

In the new study, researchers used four groups of mice. One group was on a normal diet with normal drinking water while another group had a normal diet with aspartame (an artificial sweetener) added to their water. The two other groups were given a high fat diet with one group being given water and the other given water plus aspartame.

The normal diet group was receiving aspartame equivalent to what you would receive from around three-and-a-half cans of diet soft drink per day while the high fat group were given aspartame equivalent to two cans of diet soft drink daily.

There was no difference between the two groups who received the normal diet; however, in the high fat group those receiving aspartame gained more weight and had higher blood sugar levels than those without aspartame.

The theory behind why this happens is that aspartame contains phenylalanine which blocks the action of an enzyme in the digestive tract called IAP (intestinal alkaline phosphatase). This IAP has been shown to prevent metabolic syndrome (obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease).

All in all, it’s a reminder that when it comes to food “artificial” is not what you want.

Source: Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism


Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.