Artificial Sweeteners: A Not So Sweet Deal

Two Purdue’s University researchers in the Department of Psychological Sciences, Professor Terry Davidson and associate professor Susan Swithers, have discovered “artificial sweeteners may disrupt the body’s natural ability to ‘count’ calories based on foods’ sweetness.” This finding offers a logical explanation as to why “increasing numbers of people in the United States lack the natural ability to regulate food intake and body weight. ”

Early in life we learn that certain foods—sweet and dense foods—indicate high calories and that signals the body about appropriate caloric intake and how much to eat. Davidson and Swithers claim when people consume artificial sweeteners the body’s ability to judge caloric intake is impaired. “When you substitute artificial sweetener for real sugar … the body learns it can no longer use its sense of taste to gauge calories. So, the body may be fooled into thinking a product sweetened with sugar has no calories.” The result is a person overeats.

Although the researchers admit artificial sweeteners aren’t the only reason for obesity, they do believe it is a major contributing factor. They also note that “sugar-free products increased from less than 70 million in 1987 to more than 160 million in 2000. During the same period, the consumption of regular soft drinks increased by more than 15 gallons per capita annually.” Moreover, obesity rates have climbed. The question for researchers now is whether or not the brain can be retrained to naturally measure calories after consuming artificial sweeteners.

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