Artificial Sweeteners, Not So Sweet

It was heartening to see the editorial titled “Artificially Sweetened Beverages, Cause for Concern” in the December 8th issue of the usually conservative Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). The editorial, by Dr. David Ludwig of Harvard Medical School and the Boston Children’s Hospital warns about a dietary trend that I’ve been concerned about for 30 years: the use of artificial sweeteners.1

Dr. Ludwig cited the San Antonio Heart Study, which found that consuming diet soft drinks on a daily basis was associated with weight gain. Dr. Ludwig also cited the Mutli-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) study, which found that consuming diet soft drinks increased the risk of developing diabetes and the metabolic syndrome. It’s important to note that people were drinking the diet soft drinks before they developed obesity or diabetes.

Dr. Ludwig explains that diet soft drinks might actually cause weight gain by disrupting the normal biochemical pathways that control hunger and feeding behavior. Laboratory animals fed saccharin, for example, increased their intake of calories because they lost their ability to adjust their caloric intake to how active they were or how much food they’d eaten. A study in rats found that saccharin was highly addictive and appeared to create a high demand for sweet tastes.

The editorial concluded that artificially sweetened beverages may be helpful in a transition from high calorie drinks to minimally sweetened drinks like water, tea and coffee. My experience is that people can make that transition without the aid of artificial sweeteners by using the recipes and following the guidelines in my book The Fat Resistance Diet.