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Gain weight by going 'diet'

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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.[1] Another natural product, miraculin, is not actually sweet, but transforms our perception of sour taste into sweet taste.[1] Artificial, or synthesised, sweeteners include aspartame, saccharin, acesulfame K and sucralose.[1]

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.[2] However, although sweeteners provide intense sweetness with minimal or no calories, studies suggest that they may actually increase appetite.[1] This can actually lead to increased carbohydrate cravings, boosting the inclination to overindulge.[3] [4] 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.[5]

One study of 3,682 individuals examined the long-term (7-8 year) relationship between ‘diet’ drink consumption and body weight.[6] 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.[7]

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.[4] 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.[8]

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.[9] Furthermore, aspartame has also been shown to have the potential to induce serious adverse reactions, including seizures.[10]

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.

 

[1] Sardesai, VM. & Waldshan, TH. (1991) Natural and synthetic intense sweeteners. J Nutr Biochem. 2(5). 236-44.

[2] Bellisle, F. & Drewnowski, A. (2007)  Intense sweeteners, energy intake and the control of body weight. Eur J Clin Nutr. 61(6). 691-700.

[3] Rudenga, KJ. & Small. DM. (2012) Amygdala response to sucrose consumption is inversely related to artificial sweetener use. Appetite. 58(2). 504-7.

[4] Yang, Q. (2010) Gain weight by “going diet?” Artificial sweeteners and the neurobiology of sugar cravings. Yale J Biol Med. 83(2). 101-8.

[5] Fagherazzi, G. et al. (2013). Consumption of artificially and sugar-sweetened beverages and incident type 2 diabetes in the Etude Epidemiologique aupres des femmes de la Mutuelle Generale de l'Education Nationale-European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition cohort. Am J Clin Nutr. 97(3). 517-23.

[6] Fowler, SP. et al. (2008) Fueling the obesity epidemic? Artificially sweetened beverage use and long-term weight gain. Obesity (Silver Spring). 16(8). 1894-900.

[7] Fowler, RP. et al. (2015) Diet soda intake is associated with long-term increases in waist circumference in a biethnic cohort of older adults: the San Antonio Longitudinal Study of Aging. J Am Geriatr Soc. 63(4). 708-15

[8] Frank, GK. et al. (2008) Sucrose activates human taste pathways differently from artificial sweetener. Neuroimage. 39(4). 1559-69.

[9] Lindseth, GN. et al. (2014) Neurobehavioural effects of aspartame consumption. Res Nurs Health. 37(3). 185-93.

[10] Maher, TJ. & Wurtman, RJ. (1987) Possible neurologic effects of aspartame, a widely used food additive. Environ Health Perspect. 75. 53-7.

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I don't understand one thing. Why producers continue to label their products with such 'diet' markers, when it's became known to general population, that drinks are not actually diet. Are they stupid? I don't think so. What's the reason?

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Thank you for the sources. I'm interested in how artificial sweeteners transformed from weight-loosing products to weight-gaining products. Will try to examine this question from these sources.

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On 29.03.2017 at 7:14 PM, torben.bey said:

I don't understand one thing. Why producers continue to label their products with such 'diet' markers, when it's became known to general population, that drinks are not actually diet. Are they stupid? I don't think so. What's the reason?

Things are not so good as you think. Most consumers are still not aware about real effect of 'diet' drinks and about many other hazards they can meet in their food. Especially when it comes to developing countries.

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Fortunately people now are paying more and more attention to healthy food, refusing from junk food. Diet drinks are kind of junk food, I think.

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It's about my mother. She used to be obsessed with idea of losing weight and always drank those 'diet' drinks. Finally, after she understood that she cannot loose weight with any media proclaimed means, she went to the doctor. He explained to her that 'diet' drinks are not the best way to slim and prescribed her healthy and balanced diet, including fruits and vegetables, honey instead of sugar or sweeteners and that did the trick :) , she started slowly but steadily loosing, around 2-3kg per week and healthily slimming in my eyes :) 

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On 4/15/2017 at 6:12 PM, kedves.shakti said:

It's about my mother. She used to be obsessed with idea of losing weight and always drank those 'diet' drinks. Finally, after she understood that she cannot loose weight with any media proclaimed means, she went to the doctor. He explained to her that 'diet' drinks are not the best way to slim and prescribed her healthy and balanced diet, including fruits and vegetables, honey instead of sugar or sweeteners and that did the trick :) , she started slowly but steadily loosing, around 2-3kg per week and healthily slimming in my eyes :) 

I think it's a common story. Though not everyone goes to a doctor and instead sits on 'diet' stuff hoping to lose weight

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So we should avoid diet beverages as well as sugar-sweetened drinks, right? But we still are surrounded by all types of such drinks conceivable, it's almost imposible to stop drinking them. Government should take actions and restrict amount of unhealthy beverages on the supermaket shelves. And should facilitate sale of healthy drinks. By the way, is juice healthy?

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I drink sweet beverages constantly, sometimes I drink diet, sometimes no, but I've never felt any changes in my organism. My weight is stable and I have no problems with sugar in my blood. Personally I've never seen a person whose overweight symptom is linked to sweeteners. In my view (based on my own experience, on people I know), overweight is an inherited gene problem. 

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jimmysarka, unfortunately we are too far from such changes. So many discussions on aspartame and other stuff, and nothing is done.

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Counting calories helps as well as burning them in the gym. But diet drinks lost its sense long ago for me, science facts speak for themselves. I've heard this news a year or two ago, but world does not change that fast, money and media rules - diet drinks are still on the supermarket shelves and it means there is a demand for it.

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