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If you’re trying to maintain a certain weight or lose a few pounds, you may be relying on diet drinks to reduce the number of calories you consume.
However, when it comes to reaching for artificially sweetened beverages for weight loss, you might be getting more than you bargained for.
In fact, according to a study led by researchers at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, switching to diet soda to lose weight may cause you to suffer from more than just a synthetic aftertaste. It could actually make you eat more — a weird side effect researchers discovered that seems to unfairly target women…
The no-calorie gamble you might want to avoid
The study, published in JAMA Network Open, is considered to be one of the largest to date to examine the effects of artificial sweeteners compared to sugar on both brain activity and appetite.
And it’s been a long time coming.
Even though these sweeteners are widely used, there has been no clear consensus on their health consequences, when it comes to appetite, glucose metabolism and weight.
“While some studies suggest they may be helpful, others show they may be contributing to weight gain, type 2 diabetes and other metabolic disorders,” said Kathleen Page, MD, the study’s corresponding author and an associate professor of medicine at the Keck School of Medicine.
Additional studies have linked these sweeteners to other health problems such as autoimmune disorders, heart disease and even asthma thanks to their effect on the gut microbiome.
And when you consider the fact that statistics show that more than 40 percent of adults in the U.S. currently use artificial sweeteners regularly, not knowing their full effects seems like a roll of the dice we shouldn’t want to make.
So the researchers set out to do it a little differently. Their study delved into the effects of those sweeteners on different population groups in order to “tease out some of the reasons behind those conflicting results.”
Worse effects for women and people who are obese
The team recruited 74 participants — both males and females — who were at a healthy weight, overweight or obese. Each person was asked to attend three separate visits where they consumed either 300 milliliters of a drink sweetened with sucrose (table sugar), a drink sweetened with the artificial sweetener sucralose, or water as a control.
For the next two hours, the researchers kept track of three things:
- Activation of regions of the brain responsible for appetite and food cravings when participants were shown pictures of high-calorie foods like a burger and donut using brain MRIs
- Levels of blood sugar, insulin, and other metabolic hormones
- The amount of food each person chose to eat at a buffet offered at the end of each session
What did the researchers discover?
The team says that hands-down, artificial sweeteners work to make some people more hungry.
Specifically, brain MRIs revealed that after consuming drinks containing sucralose, activity in regions of the brain responsible for food cravings and appetite increased in both women and people who were obese.
To top it off, the researchers say that in all groups, artificial sweeteners caused a decrease in levels of hormones that send a “full signal” to your body. In other words, they not only don’t suppress hunger — they may drive it.
However, the effect on women seemed to go deeper. In the final stage of the study, female participants who consumed a drink containing sucralose ate more at the snack buffet than after they drank a sugary beverage.
So what it comes down to is this…
Artificial sweeteners may trick your brain into feeling hungry, causing you to consume more calories than you otherwise would. This is especially true if you’re a woman.
So, if you want to lose weight, skip those artificially sweetened beverages. In truth, nothing beats water if weight loss is your goal. According to the experts at Medical News Today, water is a natural appetite suppressant, increases calorie burn (in fact, it’s necessary to burn fat!) and helps reduce overall liquid calorie intake.
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Looking to lose weight? Diet drinks might not be the sweet spot, according to new USC study — Keck School of Medicine of USC