The paleo diet saves health, food companies can ruin it

Food companies spend enormous sums trying to convince consumers their low-calorie and no-calorie, products can improve health. But research shows these concoctions interfere with metabolism and can cause serious harm.

Consider the results of drinking and eating food containing artificial sweeteners. For decades, soft drink companies and other food manufacturers have launched ad campaigns touting the alleged benefits of these artificial ingredients.

To many folks, the logic of avoiding sugar and depending on sweeteners like aspartame and saccharin is enticing. In theory, these chemicals allow you to get the delightful taste of a sugar-substitute while dodging the weight issues linked to refined carbohydrates.

But the truth of what these substances do in your body is complicated and pretty ugly.

Weight gain

For instance, laboratory tests at Purdue show that using artificial sweeteners can make you more liable to eat more total calories each day, gain extra weight and pack on more body fat.

Researchers at Purdue University’s Ingestive Behavior Research Center reported that lab animals consuming these chemicals in food end up taking in more calories, gaining more weight and creating more body fat than those allowed to eat normal sugar.

The scientists also found that when artificial sweeteners enter the digestive tract, they cause smaller increases in core body temperature than sugar does. That demonstrates artificial sweeteners don’t increase the metabolic rate (and calorie-burning) the way normal carbohydrates do.

The researchers conclude: “The data clearly indicate that consuming a food sweetened with no-calorie saccharin can lead to greater body-weight gain and adiposity (body fat creation) than would consuming the same food sweetened with a higher-calorie sugar.”

Fat problem

Food ingredients that substitute for fat produce similar, problematic effects in the body. In low-calorie, low-fat foods, food manufacturers often add gums and other lab-created substances to imitate the taste of fat while reducing caloric content.

When the same Purdue scientists tested the effects of fat substitutes on lab animals, they found that the substitutes disrupted metabolism in ways that again led to weight gain.

“These (fat) substitutes are meant to mimic the taste of fat in foods that are normally high in fat while providing a lower number of calories, but they may end up confusing the body,” says researcher Susan E. Swithers. “We didn’t study this in people, but we found that when (lab animals) consumed a fat substitute, learned signals that could help control food intake were disrupted, and the (animals) gained weight as a result.”

Paleo metabolism

The paleo diet, on the other hand, helps the body lose weight when you consume fresh fruits and vegetables along with organic meats and fish. Omitting grains and processed foods is meant to shift your metabolism into a higher gear, burning off more calories. Combined with exercise, the paleo diet may result in the creation of brown fat, the type of fat that is metabolically active and which burns calories rather than just storing them.

It’s the real foods on the paleo diet that allow the body to store less fat. The reasoning that artificially-created low-calorie foods lead to weight loss is a far-fetched fantasy that doesn’t hold up under scrutiny.

As the Purdue scientists conclude: “Substituting a part of the diet with a similar tasting item that has fewer or zero calories sounds like a common-sense approach to lose weight, but there are other physiological functions at work. Tastes normally alert the body to expect calories, and when those calories aren’t present we believe the systems become ineffective and one of the body’s mechanisms to control food intake can become ineffective.”

For the best taste and metabolic results, stick to paleo.



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Margaret Cantwell

By Margaret Cantwell

Margaret Cantwell began her paleo diet in 2010 in an effort to lose weight. Since then, the diet has been instrumental in helping her overcome a number of other health problems. Thanks to the benefits she has enjoyed from her paleo diet and lifestyle, she dedicates her time as managing editor of Easy Health Digest™, researching and writing about a broad range of health and wellness topics, including diet, exercise, nutrition and supplementation, so that readers can also be empowered to experience their best health possible.