Artificial Sweeteners: Not-So Sweet Effects
If you’re trying to lose weight, health experts recommend eating no more than 25 grams of sugar in a day for women and 34 grams for men.
It’s not easy when you consider that 25 grams is roughly six teaspoons of sugar and the average person eats about four times that. You could wipe out your entire daily sugar limit with one large sweet tea at lunch or a cupcake for dessert.
It’s no wonder people turn to artificial sweeteners to get their sweet fix.
Problem is, artificial sweeteners can make it harder for you to lose weight.
Barbara Mekkes, RD, has some simple advice for anyone trying to lose weight.
“Don’t replace sugar with artificial sweeteners,” she said. “You could end up eating more than usual. They can also slow down your metabolism, which has a lot to do with losing weight and keeping it off.”
It’s some sour news for those of us who have a sweet tooth.
Scientists explain it like this: When you eat sugar, you experience feelings of satiety. But when you substitute sugar for artificial sweeteners, your brain is left waiting for that reward. As a result, you tend to eat more trying to reach that feeling of satisfaction.
Making matters worse is how artificial sweeteners affect your metabolism, several studies suggest.
Research in lab animals has shown that artificial sweeteners confuse the body and alters the way it handles real sugar. Another study found that non-caloric artificial sweeteners change the gut’s microbiome. And earlier this year, researchers found that sugar substitutes may promote fat accumulation – especially in people with obesity.
At the Bon Secours Weight Loss Institute, Mekkes tells patients to steer clear of artificial sweeteners and read every Nutritional Facts label to stay within their sugar limit.
Don’t forget to consider the sugar that naturally occurs in fruits, whole grains and sweet potatoes. A good rule of thumb is to limit portions of these types of food to 1/3 cup per meal.
Mekkes uses a couple of expressions to help weight-loss patients remember what they should and should not eat. White bread, white rice and regular potatoes are off limits if you’re trying to lose weight.
“I tell patients: ‘If it’s white, do not bite.’ ”
That said, you shouldn’t go crazy with whole grains either.
“You will gain, with too much grain,” Mekkes said.
If you choose to have fruit, she said, keep a watchful eye on your portions.
“You can only have one or two pieces of fruit in a day,” Mekkes said. “Fruit is nature’s candy. It’s still sugar.”