December 2009
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Artificial sweeteners have  definite advantage in weight management and control of diabetes because they permit variety and satisfy cravings without the extra calories or the increase in blood sugar and insulin that occurs when eating high sugary foods. Artificial sweeteners offer the individual the sweetness of sugar without calories.  Part 2 discusses the effectivness and safety of these food additives.

They are anywhere from 20 to 7,000 times sweeter than sugar. Each gram of refined table sugar contains 4 calories vs. zero calories per gram for artificial sweeteners. They have a definite advantage in weight management and control of diabetes because they permit variety and satisfy cravings without the extra calories or the increase in blood sugar and insulin that occurs when eating high sugary foods. In theory, they should be the dream of everyone who needs to limit their weight, yet that has not worked out that way. Questions about the safety and more recently effectiveness keep coming up.

The Answer is clear: Artificial Sweeteners are Safe:

Whether its aspartame, sucrolose or Truvia, the medical consensus is that they are very safe products. This is supported by regulatory agencies around the world, who have evaluated these compounds not once, but multiple times, the best research from academic obesity centers, and the consensus of expert medical committees of various scientific organizations. Billions of cans of diet drinks have been consumed since 1982 when aspartame was approved by the FDA without a proven instance of cancer, nervous system diseases, or visual problems. Anecdotal claims that purport to show otherwise have thus far been overwhelmingly rejected by leading food safety authorities as flawed.

Artificial Sweeteners Help Weight Loss
Once the consumer accepts the safety of artificial sweeteners, the next question should be whether they are effective. There is no doubt the benefit diabetics achieve with these compounds. It permits them to eat a greater variety of food, especially sweet ones without altering their blood sugar or adding calories. Making food more palatable certainly leads to better adherence to any food restriction plan-the cornerstone of weight management. Dr Barry Popkin from Purdue Univesity reviewed his study and 152 more studies showing weight loss, he writes, “taken together, the evidence by us and other suggests that than the non nutritive sweeteners are used as substitutes for higher yielding energy , they have the potential to aid in weight management.

Here is a summary of the issues raised by critics that believe that consuming artificial sweeteners results in significant weight gain:

Artificial sweeteners cause hunger or significant increased sweet consumption:
There is some evidence that drinking artificially sweetened beverages leads to the desire for more sweet food i.e. sweet leads to more sweet. This behavior has marked variability and for most people it is not very important. It can be minimized when the artificially sweetened beverages are consumed with food. Some research has found that AS can actually increase the release of satiety producing hormones. There is no credible evidence that AS increase appetite or hunger. There is no proven increase in fat consumption when sugar intake is reduced.

Artificial Sweeteners may cause overcompensation in some individuals:
This means that some individuals are influenced to eat more food when they are using artificially sweetened food and drinks- the result is to cancel out the caloric savings. This again is a very individual behavior and for some people it may be very important and needs to be recognized. Everyone has seen people eating a chocolate cake and drinking a diet soda.

Artificially sweetened drinks may be less filling:
There is some evidence that drinking sugar sweetened beverages leads to feeling fuller for longer periods of time. However, any savings are overshadowed by the increase in net calories.

Artificial sweeteners may lead to weight gain, not weight loss: There are a few studies that have shown slight weight gain, rather than weight loss in subjects consuming artificially sweetened beverages. The most important study was from 2008 which reported that artificial sweetened drinks might produce weight gain, rather than weight loss. Conducted by Dr Sharon Fowler and colleagues at the University of Texas in San Antonio, this study has been widely quoted and misinterpreted. Here is what was reported:

1. Only artificially sweetened beverages were studies, not all the other foods containing artificial sweeteners.

2. The differences in weight gain between those drinking artificially sweetened drinks vs. those that did not was an increase in average BMI of 0.47. (An example of a BMI increase of 0.47 is the difference between 200 lbs. and 203 lb. for a 5 ft 10 inch individual or 150 and 152 for a 5 ft 4 inch person—not much.) The average participant had a BMI of 26-27. Not a very obese group to begin with.

3. None of the results applied diabetics, or to obese people (BMI = 30 or greater). This is very important, since it’s obese and diabetics that benefit most by AS.

4. The authors end their report stating, “Dieting was strongly associated with AS consumption: 72% of dieters vs. 41% of non dieters.” That is exactly what one would expect, people trying to lose weight use artificial sweeteners, not normal weight people.

When all of the evidence is taken together, it appears that artificially sweetened beverages and foods are safe and can act as a substitute for higher calorie sweeteners and thus have a significant role to play in weight management.
They make foods more palatable which encourages better compliance with a reduced food plan. This is confirmed by numerous studies from all over the world over the past 20 years. Drinking diet sodas will lead to weight gain when individuals use them as an excuse to eat higher calorie foods.

Who is doing the talking-That’s The important issue for those consumers who are still confused,  concerned  and still in doubt about the scientific evidence proving artificial sweeteners are both safe and effective.Look at the credenditials of the author before you make a decision. If he has an M.D. or PhD and is on the faculty of a major university (a university you have heard of before), and has listed publications that you can independently varify, then read on.

Richard L. Lipman M.D., a board certified internist and endocrinologist has been treating weight and metabolic problems for 25 years in his Miami office.
You can read all of the secrets of successful weight loss losers in His recent book, The 100 Calorie Secret

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