Since their invention, artificial sweeteners have commonly been thought of as ideal substitutes for sugar based on their low caloric content. However, recent studies have shown that, while artificial sweeteners may not have the calories of sugar, they still contribute to overeating, insulin resistance, obesity, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and the metabolic syndrome.

The important Framingham Heart Study found that those who drank one or more cans of diet soda per day compared with those drinking less than one were:

  • 31% more likely to be obese
  • at a 30% greater risk of adding belly fat
  • 25% more likely to have high blood sugar or high triglycerides

Other studies have found that even drinking one can of diet soda per day or more:

  • increased the risk of heart attacks and stroke by 61%
  • caused waistlines to grow 70% more than without drinking diet soda
  • increased the chance of growing overweight by 65%
  • increased the risk of full-blown metabolic syndrome by 34%

These numbers don’t lie. There is a correlation between consuming artificial sweeteners (or certainly something about diet soda) and numerous health problems. But why?

The answer is primarily in how our bodies respond to artificial sweeteners compared to real sugar.

When you drink a diet soda, the body is tricked into thinking that sugar is on its way and makes numerous preparations for what it is assuming will be glucose. However, the fake sugar will go right through your body without it ever getting the glucose that it thought was coming. This means you can have a sugar craving following your meal because the body sends out signals that its needs were never met.

Your brain reacts along similar lines as your GI system. When we eat, our brains release sensations of “reward” that fall off as we become full. Artificial sweeteners do not fully cause these reward feelings to go away.

Combined with your gastrointestinal response, this leads your body to not only want more sugar, but to reward you for more as well, causing a high risk of overeating and eating poor foods, especially foods rich in sugar. When that happens, it’s easy to see why artificial sweeteners are not the “miracle sugar substitute” some may view them as.

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