Artificial sweeteners, like those used in diet sodas and other “low sugar” foods, are actually more likely to contribute to weight gain than typically thought. The traditional belief had been that “diet” foods will promote weight loss — but a behavioral neuroscientist says that’s actually not true.
In 2012, both the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association stated that artificial sweeteners could prove to be a good alternative solution for those seeking less calories and added sugar in their food.
However, on Thursday, a scientific journal printed an opinion article from Professor Susan Swithers of Purdue University contesting these claims.
She says that, even though foods and drinks with artificial sweeteners are frequently promoted as healthy or will aid weight loss, these claims are not entirely true, CBS News reports.
Swithers says that even though for most people “it seems like common sense that diet sodas would not be as problematic as regular sodas, common sense is not always right.”
Frequently used artificial sweeteners include aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin and can be found not just in soft drinks but a wide variety of “low fat” or “low sugar” foods.
According to Swithers, nearly one-third of adults and 15 percent of children in the US currently consume artificial sweeteners. Studies suggest children’s consumption is only rising, too.
Other studies, WebMD points out, have also shown evidence linking higher instances of type two diabetes, heart disease, and metabolic syndrome among people who regularly eat foods with artificial sweeteners versus people who don’t.
If nothing else, Swithers writes, there is nothing suggesting that switching from regular soda to diet soda is healthier. This, she says, means it may be worth advising people avoid added sweeteners of all varieties, artificial and natural alike.
Naturally, there has been some immediate industry backlash. The American Beverage Association has denounced Swithers’ article, saying it is purely speculative and lacks proof.
With major health organizations saying they are fine and neuroscientists saying they aren’t, it can be difficult to know which is right. What do you think: Are you going to cut artificial sweeteners out of your diet?
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