Study: Artificial Sweeteners Make You Feel Hungrier

They mess with the brain's chemistry, sending the body into "hungry" mode
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Dieting usually means no alcohol, no bread, no fired food and absolutely no refined sugar. The last “enemy” is often referred to by doctors as “toxic” and one of the worst things you can put in your body.

Food companies have adapted by reducing the sugar content in their products and adding artificial sweeteners to preserve the taste. However, the additives have been shown to cause even more damage than sugar itself.

New research suggests that one of the negative side effects is eating more. Trials in both animals and humans have indicated that consuming artificial sweeteners can make you feel hungrier. A comprehensive new study, co-led by the University of Sydney, has revealed for the first time why this response occurs.

Why?

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Have you ever known anyone who switched from regular to diet soda and lost weight (without making any other changes)? Probably not. Many personal trainers and fitness specialists say that they never eat foods with additives and artificial sweeteners.

Researchers have identified a new system in the brain that senses and integrates the sweetness and energy content of food. “When sweetness versus energy is out of balance for a period of time, the brain recalibrates and increases total calories consumed,” said lead researcher Associate Professor Greg Neely from the University of Sydney's Faculty of Science. More studies with people need to be done to confirm the human brain's response to artificial sweeteners.

Brain chemistry

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Basically, artificial sweeteners boost a person’s appetite, sending the into a “feed me” mode by triggering a conserved neuronal fasting response and increasing the motivation to eat, according to the report published in Cell Metabolism.

“Artificial sweeteners can actually change how animals perceive the sweetness of their food, with a discrepancy between sweetness and energy levels prompting an increase in caloric consumption,” the authors said in a press release.

In the study, fruit flies that were exposed to a diet laced with artificial sweetener for prolonged periods (more than five days) were found to consume 30 percent more calories when they were then given naturally sweetened food. Another experiment using mice shows similar results.

In other studies

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Past studies have shown that artificial sweeteners play tricks on the brain in a worse way than sugary sodas. It thinks the body is consuming more calories than it actually is, eventually leading to appetite problems.

Experiments on rats have shown that Aspartame, the market names of which are NutraSweet® and Equal®, can cause the development of cancerous cells in different parts or the body. The sweetener’s carcinogenic effects are increased when exposure begins in the womb. The Department of Health lists consumption of alcoholic beverages as a known human carcinogen. The most common cancers linked to excessive drinking are head and neck cancers, esophageal, liver, breast, colon and rectum, according to the National Cancer Institute.

A Swedish study that observed 42,400 men over 12 years said that only two sweetened drinks a day can increase the risk of heart problems by almost a quarter. Less than half of the people first diagnosed with the condition live longer than five years, according to the Heart Failure Society of America.

Another study has linked artificial sweeteners to a change in gut microbes, increasing the risk of Type 2 diabetes. 

In one research in particular, which included 749 people who were 65 and older, those who had sugar-free sodas gained three times more weight around the waist – 3.2 inches – than those who didn’t. Belly fat is closely linked to higher risk of heart diseases, inflammation and Type 2 diabetes.

More readings:

This is Exactly What Happens to Your Body When You Eat a Ton of Sugar

Are Vitamins and Supplements Worth Taking?

What Do Probiotics Really Do and Do You Need Them?

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