Do Artificial Sweeteners Affect Your Appetite?
Do you use artificial sweeteners? Whether it's the little packets for your coffee, a diet soda or sugar-free pudding, chances are you have had your share of sugar subs. The last thing you want when you're trying to save calories is to feel hungry but, according multiple recent studies, that might be exactly what happens when sugar substitutes play tricks on your brain's ability to tell if you're satisfied - or not.
Feeling Full on Diet Soda
Research published in Diabetes Care discovered that an appetite suppressing hormone, GLP-1, was significantly higher in volunteers who drank a glucose solution along with diet soda compared to those who drank glucose with carbonated water. The conclusion was that the diet soda drinkers may have become less hungry than their counterparts because of because of GLP-1s appetite suppressing properties.
Sugar Substitutes and Overeating
But wait. Another study led by Purdue University researchers gave an opposing result for a different artificial sugar. Saccharin, a sweetener found in Sweet N’ Low and Sugar Twin, was used in this test. Rats fed yogurt sweetened with saccharin ate more total calories and put on more weight than rats in a control group. The scientists thought that it was all in the rat’s little minds. Apparently, the brain looks for calories when something sweet is consumed, and when it doesn’t get them, the scientists concluded, the brain sends signals that slow down metabolism. Whether or not the same occurs in humans was not studied, but they say their findings are, “…consistent with recent prospective human clinical studies that have documented increased risk for obesity and metabolic syndrome in individuals consuming beverages sweetened with high-intensity sweeteners."
Could it be that artificial sugar not only suppresses appetite but also makes you eat more? Yale researchers say, "Yes." On the one hand, they argue, “Sweetness uncoupled from caloric content offers a partial, but not complete, activation of the food reward pathways in the brain.” This partial satisfaction may lead a person to eat more. Also, the sweetness of artificial sugar may trigger sugar cravings and sugar dependence to further fuel a preference for more sugary foods. The study found, “….strong correlation between a person’s customary intake of a flavor and his preferred intensity for that flavor.”
The Answer Is...
There is still no definitive answer for laboratory animals, let alone humans, to the question of how or if artificial sugar effects appetite and weight, and so the issue is far from settled. Large scale studies must be conducted on humans, both healthy and diabetic, but the health risks and length of time needed to get answers may be too much to tackle. What’s more, there are so many substitute sugars out there with wildly variant chemical makeup that putting them all in one no-no bucket seems unwarranted.
The report of 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee on non-caloric sweeteners related to energy intake and body weight is this:
Moderate evidence shows that using non-caloric sweeteners will affect energy intake only if they are substituted for higher calorie foods and beverages. A few observational studies reported that individuals who use non-caloric sweeteners are more likely to gain weight or be heavier. This does not mean that noncaloric sweeteners cause weight gain rather that they are more likely to be consumed by overweight and obese individuals.
And so in 2011, that's the way it is.
Do you think artificial sugar has anything to do with YOUR appetite?