Weight loss: Sugar substitute could be making it harder to reach your goals- ‘no benefits’

Weight loss advice shared by Steve Miller in 2019

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Fancy new diet hacks arise every couple of weeks it seems, but there are a fair few healthy replacement supplements that people swear by. But leading scientists warn they could be making it “harder” to lose weight, as the cells in the body’s gut that tell the brain we have eaten sugar, don’t work for sweeteners.

Concerns surrounding our daily sugar intake continue to ring loud and clear across the globe.

By eating too much sugar, it can contribute to consuming too many calories, which can lead to weight gain and can have a knock on effect for the future.

Being overweight increases your risk of health problems such as heart disease, some cancers, type 2 diabetes, and impact your teeth.

These fears for what sugar could be doing to our health has led to an increase in sugar-free, calorie-free, chemical-based artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, acesulfame K, saccharin, sorbitol, sucralose and xylitol.

They are found in hundreds of drinks and foods, including soft drinks and ready meals to cakes and toothpaste, and figures show an estimated £68million a year is spent on them in the UK.

These products are seen as a marker for a healthy lifestyle but there are questions about how good they are as a slimming aid.

But what do the scientists think?

Human Nutrition Professor Mike Lean, from Glasgow University, says there is still a lot we don’t about the long-term benefits of sweeteners.

Lean has written on the role of sugar in the obesity epidemic, and suggests sweeteners may actually make our cravings for sweet and fattening foods even worse.

One of the most recent studies conducted was in 2021, carried out by experts at the Diabetes and Obesity Institute at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

They found that brain itself reacts differently to sweeteners than sugar, implying regular consumption of sweetener-based foods and drinks can make it harder, not easier, for some people to lose weight because the cells in the gut that tell the brain we have eaten sugar — and therefore taken on calories — don’t do that for sweeteners, leaving us still craving sweet food.

“There is no convincing evidence of better outcomes for using artificial sweeteners than sugar in normal amounts,” he said.

“International guidance says to keep added sugar below 10 percent of calorie intake.

“And even this is to protect teeth — not to control diabetes or avoid weight gain: the evidence for those is very weak.”

Professor Tim Spector, an expert in genetic epidemiology at King’s College London, also agrees with this conclusion, adding that a number of scientific trials that swap volunteers from sugary fizzy drinks to ones that contain sweeteners, showed little or no weight loss or a reduction in diabetes risk.

“There’s no obvious benefit in switching to a diet drink — except when it comes to your teeth,” he stated.

“These people should be losing weight, but they’re not.”

He wondered if they brain “doesn’t react as it does to sugar” because it’s being “reset” at a neural level by the chemicals in the sweeteners.

“It could be our gut microbes don’t know how to deal with chemicals that we were never supposed to eat,” he explained.

The author of The Diet Myth — The Real Science Behind What We Eat, believes the idea of replacing sugar with super-sweet alternatives is flawed.

“We should be weaning people, especially children, off ultra-sweetened foods,” Spector said, “[We should be] teaching them to enjoy other flavours instead.”

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