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What is healthy diet Sweeteners, used as sugar replacements, are compounds that are so intensely sweet that only a little is needed to replace a larger amount of sugar. They are available in two forms: natural sweeteners of plant origin and synthetic, artificial sweeteners. Natural sweeteners include glycyrrhizin, thaumatins, rabaudioside, stevioside, monellin, perillaldehyde and osladin. Another natural product, miraculin, is not actually sweet, but transforms our perception of sour taste into sweet taste. Artificial, or synthesised, sweeteners include aspartame, saccharin, acesulfame K and sucralose. Among all sweeteners, artificial sweeteners are consider the worst for us, as they are thought to impact on our health, despite artificially sweetened products often being advertised as “diet” alternatives thanks to their reduced calorie content. This ‘diet’ label comes from old studies that showed artificially sweetened products can assist in weight loss and weight maintenance. However, although sweeteners provide intense sweetness with minimal or no calories, studies suggest that they may actually increase appetite. This can actually lead to increased carbohydrate cravings, boosting the inclination to overindulge.  Some studies have also showed that artificially sweetened drinks are linked with an increased incidence of Type 2 Diabetes, although no causal link was identified. One study of 3,682 individuals examined the long-term (7-8 year) relationship between ‘diet’ drink consumption and body weight. Even after adjusting for other weight-gain risk factors (such as exercise and diet), results showed that those who regularly consumed ‘diet’ drinks had a 47% higher BMI increase across the follow-up period than those who did not. Another recent study that followed 474 diet soda drinkers for nearly 10 years, found that their waists grew 70% more than the waists of non-diet soda drinkers. In addition, those who drank two or more diet sodas per day had, on average, nearly 4 times the increase in waist size during the 10 year study period compared to non-diet soda drinkers. These effects are thought to potentially stem from the way that artificial sweeteners and sugar affect the brain. By providing sweetness without any calories, it is thought that consumption of artificial sweeteners can cause us to crave other sweet foods and drinks, which can contribute to excess calorie consumption. This is because artificial sweeteners provide less ‘sweetness satisfaction’, and actually reduce the ‘reward’ obtained when going on to consume actual sugar. This means that, not only does the artificial sweetener not fully satisfy sweetness cravings, it also reduces how rewarding actual sugar is, and thus more is ingested. This is further supported by results from a study at the University of California, San Diego, in which volunteers underwent functional MRI scans as they took small sips of water sweetened with sugar or sucralose. Sugar activated regions of the brain involved in food reward, while sucralose didn’t. In addition to these effects on carbohydrate cravings and weight gain, reports also suggest an association between the consumption of aspartame, a widely used artificial sweetener, and neurological and behavioural reactions. Furthermore, aspartame has also been shown to have the potential to induce serious adverse reactions, including seizures. Thus when trying to be healthy, opting for ‘diet’ options may not be the quick fix it first seems. Not only can artificial sweeteners cause numerous health problems, they can also actively contribute to weight gain, increased BMI and the development of type 2 diabetes. These sweeteners are therefore perhaps not so sweet after all.  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