Artificial Sweeteners–A Wolf In Goat’s Clothing?

Okay, so I come from a kind of Southern gothic family–but don’t we all have at least one uncle who’s been saying since the eighties that artificial sweeteners will make you fat? The argument goes–people who are overweight use artificialwolf.jpg sweeteners, therefore, artificial sweeteners make you gain weight. Association, therefore, cause. Everyone at the dinner table just rolls their eyes when he says it, don’t they?

Well, slap me on the butt and call me a fool, because maybe there was something to the idea, based on this study. Researchers fed three kinds of yogurt to rats–yogurt sweetened with sugar, yogurt sweetened with artificial sweetener, and plain. Turns out the rats who ate the artificially sweetened yogurt gained more weight and had a lower body temperature. The theory is that the body expects calories because of the sweet taste, doesn’t get them, then both ramps up the appetite and lowers the metabolism. Certainly this study needs to be repeated, and hopefully done with humans (instead of rats), but the theory is provocative.

So why am I calling artificial sweeteners a possible wolf in goat’s clothing? You could think of the artificial sweetener theory as false expectations, leading to badness. One of the problems with doing the same study in humans is that there is a definite chemically (goaty) taste to artificial sweeteners, even the best. No one (that I know of) actually prefers artificial sweeteners over sugar. So what’s the practical, take-home message? Appetites are hard enough to control. If you can, maybe you want to think about stopping artificial sweeteners–if so, try tapering down. It’s hard to go from sweetened coffee to black with no transition. Use a little less and a little less. If the problem for you is sodas, there’s plenty of research already to support stopping those babies. Cut them out! Again, for most people, a taper works better than cold turkey.

However, the big practical question left out of this research article is–what about people with diabetes? I’d say, for now, that if the choice is between sugar and sweeteners, and you have diabetes–hang with the goats if you must, but keep in mind that, sometime in the future, you might find out there was a wolf hiding under there, howling for more. If you can, though, drop the “sweet” altogether. Go for the unsweetened yogurt whenever possible.

Now, does gray hair cause wrinkles, or not…?

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