Artificial Sweeteners for Weight Loss: Pros and Cons

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Most of us know that we shouldn’t be drinking sugar-sweetened sodas and juices, as they can pack on the pounds. But what about low-calorie sweetened beverages, which have been touted as good replacements?

A panel convened by the American Heart Association (AHA) reviewed the evidence for six low-calorie sweeteners, finding that while they may help a little in controlling obesity and being overweight, there are more potential negatives related to their use than positives.

Concerns include that their ultra-sweet taste may boost the desire for foods and beverages with added sugars while making naturally sweet foods less appetizing. Also, there is preliminary evidence that they increase diabetes risk by changing the ratio of good to bad bacteria in the gut. Ironically, they may also make you feel less full, lowering your awareness of how many calories you’re eating, which could lead you to consume more calories from other foods.

While it’s essential to consume adequate fluids, low-calorie beverages aren’t the way to do it, concludes the AHA, which published its findings last year in Circulation. Instead, increase your consumption of plain water and no-sodium seltzer. And if you currently drink lots of sugary or low-calorie beverages, try to gradually tame your taste for them. For example, go from using two packets of sugar or low-calorie sweetener in your coffee to 1.5 packets over a week, and then further reduce the amount as your palate adjusts.

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