Artificial sweeteners have no calories, no fat and no protein. Therefore, they will not directly influence any weight gain or blood sugars. If you are only going to use them for the short-term, artificial sweeteners can help reduce weight and will definitely cut oodles of calories. You may want to reconsider, however, if you are planning to use them for the long-term for weight loss.
The FDA has approved five different artificial sweeteners, and they all taste sweeter than regular sugar:
Aspartame: It is 180 times sweeter than sugar, and it is usually packaged and sold as Equal or Nutrasweet.
Acesulfame-K: This one is 200 times sweeter than sugar, and you will find it packaged and sold as Sweet One and Sunnet.
Saccharin: This one is one of the most popular. It is about 300 times sweeter than sugar. Most people know it as Sweet ‘N Low.
Sucralose: Also known as Splenda. This little sweetener is 600 times sweeter than sugar and is great for baking and cooking.
Neotame: This one isn’t as well known as the others and has no brand name that I could find, but it is super sweet, a whopping 7,000 to 13,000 times sweeter than sugar.
Stevia: This is the new kid on the block. It ranks in at about 300 times sweeter than sugar. There are no long-term studies available for this one, but there have been some concerns about its relationship to cancer, so buyer beware, at least for now.
How do these affect your body’s ability to lose weight and maintain balance? Well, our bodies have been created to associate sweet with energy. When we eat something sweet, our brain tells our body to eat more, at first. Then, when the brain feels like it has enough sweetness from which the body needs to gain its energy, it tells the body to slow down or stop eating. When you eat something with a sweet taste but without the sugar to convert to energy, the brain can then become confused and be unable to determine when you have had enough to eat, causing you to eat even more.
Purdue University did a study that showed when rats ate food that was sweetened with saccharin, they consumed more calories and gained more weight than the rats that were fed sugar-sweetened foods. Although this study doesn’t prove that artificial sweeteners actually cause weight gain, it certainly does provide food for thought.
Intense sweeteners, energy intake and the control of body weight. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition . 2007
Swithers SE, Davidson TL. A role for sweet taste: calorie predictive relations in energy regulation by rats. Behavioral Neuroscience. 2008.