Natural Weight Loss | Jon Barron's Health Blog

Date: 02/25/2008    Written by: Jon Barron

Artificial Sweeteners Make You Fat


And here's a study supporting what I've been telling people for years -- that not only are artificial sweeteners unhealthy, they make you fat. Yes, that's what I said. They make you fat!

If you think you're on your way to a new, svelte look because you drink diet soda, you might want to reconsider. A study out of the Ingestive Behavior Research Center at Purdue University, published in the February 2008 issue of Behavioral Neuroscience, proves what many of us in the alternative health community have been saying for years, that artificial sweeteners may throw off your body's natural calorie-counting response, leaving you more likely to overindulge in other foods. In experiments on rats, the researchers found that those fed yogurt sweetened with sugar substitutes, "consumed more calories, put on more weight, gained more body fat, and did not cut back on their calorie consumption in the longer term," when compared to rats eating yogurt sweetened with regular sugar.

Study co-author Susan Swithers points out that preliminary studies on humans have already shown a similar effect. In a 2005 survey by the University of Texas Health Science Center, those people who drink diet soft drinks actually gain weight. The study found that "for every can of diet soda people consumed each day, there was a 41% increased risk of being overweight." Swithers anticipates that, as with rats, sugar substitutes not only fail to promote weight loss; they actually lead to weight gain.

How can taking in no-calorie foods make you fat? As it turns out, quite simply.

The body regulates the hunger response based on caloric satisfaction -- when it senses you've had enough calories it gives you a signal to stop eating. Your metabolic system "naturally" registers sweet foods as calorie-rich, but when you drink diet sodas and eat artificially sweetened foods with low-caloric value, that "natural response" gets thrown off. Your brain no longer knows when to give you the "stop" signal, since sweet no longer equals calorie-rich. So after you finish the artificially sweetened food, you continue to eat and end up stuffing you face more than you would have if you had stuck to plain sugar. This phenomenon makes researchers suspect that the widespread consumption of artificial sweeteners may be tied to the sharp increase in obesity rates.

These findings add one more reason to avoid sugar substitutes, and yet, many people I know ignore the research documenting the nasty side effects because they've fixated on weight loss and think the little colored packets offer a solution. It seems that with this new data, there's just no remaining excuse for choosing aspartame, sucralose, or any of the other "devils in disguise." But in case you're still tempted -- if you still think that just maybe you'll skinny up choosing artificial sweeteners in spite of the new evidence, remember:

  • Artificial sweeteners taste lousy compared to natural sweeteners.
  • Artificial sweeteners are more expensive.
  • And artificial sweeteners have been tied to a host of ugly side effects including: shrunken thymus glands, enlarged liver and kidneys, miscarriages, Parkinson's, fibromyalgia, lupus, breast cancer, lymphoma, seizures, and tremors.

Look, I'm certainly not advocating that you dump Splenda and start consuming sugar with abandon. Sugar has its own problems, but at least it doesn't shut off your hunger control mechanism and accelerate your weight gain.


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    Submitted by Alex Velasco on
    May 27, 2009 - 5:17am

    True that everything you read in the internet is not scientifically proven, but it is a start. Science tells us to investigate and compare notes. Although we are not doing it under a controlled study, who better to study their own body, than the person who knows it. If you eat peanuts and break out in a rash repeatedly, and symptoms subside when you stop, then you are going to stop. Conclusion it is the peanuts that caused the reaction. If you intake artificial sweeteners and experience symptoms only when on the sweeteners, then it is relatively safe to assume you had a reaction to such. As to every one does not make it out alive of this world, well I choose to stay alive and relatively healthy as long as possible. It is irresponsible for a "TRAINED NUTRITIONIST" To say you are going to die any way. She is suppose to be teaching good nutrition. And it is my experience that most of the trained nutritionist don't have more of a clue than the rest of us. The only teach what they were taught and western medicine has little to bring to the table in that aspect. I had been miss informed by that community for the past 11 years being a renal patient.

    Submitted by Barbara on
    February 25, 2008 - 4:51am

    I would like to share my daughter’s reaction to NutraSweet with you.
    More than 20 years ago, when my daughter was in her early 20’s and studying for a Master’s Degree,
    she noticed that she was experiencing bizarre symptoms that were quite alarming .
    This truly bright girl – (whose college tuition was entirely funded by scholarships and who won a Telluride Association Scholarship in competition
    with more than one million students from the entire US) –realized that she was becoming very confused. She would go to a grocery store and couldn’t
    remember why she was there. She would be driving her car and couldn’t remember how to get home. She had déjà vu experiences.
    And she got much worse. In addition to her drastic personality change and intellectual deterioration,
    she had epileptic-type seizures,
    she began to lose her vision in both eyes
    she had severe headaches and trouble forming words, panic attacks, a rapid heart rate, tremors, tingling and numbness of the extremities,
    profound exhaustion and severe drowsiness, insomnia, suicidal thoughts and numerous other problems including a very short temper, gastrointestinal
    problems, and joint pains.
    She consulted a neurologist, and he told her that she had temporal lobe epilepsy.He began treating her with medication, but the medication didn’t work,
    because the doctor was wrong in his diagnosis and he was treating her for a condition she didn’t have! What she really had was ASPARTAME POISONING/TOXICITY!
    I had heard about Dr. H. J. Roberts (Florida), so I contacted him and he confirmed what I suspected – that she was suffering from a reaction to the
    artificial sweetener in diet soda. My daughter owes her life to Dr.Roberts, because thanks to him, she stopped drinking diet soda, and gradually, every one of her problems disappeared. Today, she is a successful computer programmer and financial analyst.
    It took a year or more for all her symptoms to vanish. She got better slowly with bad days thrown in.
    To follow up, we took her to Boston for special studies on her brain, and the doctors confirmed that it was the NutraSweet that had made her so sick.
    They said that she had been totally misdiagnosed by the neurologist and that she did not have temporal lobe epilepsy at all. ( These men were in the
    Clinical Research Center at the Massachusetts Institute of
    Technology. ). We also took her to a highly-respected ophthalmologist who explained why her vision loss was due to aspartame.
    She was fine for 12 years. Then, she began
    drinking diet soda again and had the same severe reaction. Luckily, we realized what was happening to her and were able to convince her to stop
    using NutraSweet. Why did she start again? It’s addictive!
    Many other members of our family also have noticed a reaction to NutraSweet.
    I get severe classic migraines from diet soda – my son, who is a physician and pharmacist, can’t see to drive if he drinks diet soda – another young man in the family,
    a lawyer, had double vision. His ophthalmologist thought he had a brain tumor, but all the tests were negative. He stopped drinking diet soda, and within 3 months, the double vision was gone. My sister-in-law acted like a
    “raving maniac” when she drank diet soda.
    And, by talking to others in my community for 20 years, I have learned that reactions to NutraSweet are quite common.
    Unfortunately, most physicians are clueless when it comes to connecting the many symptoms of NutraSweet poisoning/toxicity with the consumption of what
    is supposedly a safe substance.
    By approving NutraSweet, the FDA caused many problems for many innocent people.
    The FDA should be protecting Americans, but sadly, Americans have to protect
    All this happened to my daughter 18 years ago, long before I had a computer and could check out aspartame there. I had to spend an entire year writing to doctors and scientists and congressmen to learn about aspartame. When my daughter recovered by stopping diet soda (and she only drank 1 can a day), I knew that I had to fight aspartame for the sake of others.

    Submitted by Ien van Houten on
    February 29, 2008 - 3:35pm

    Dear Dr. Jon, a question for you:
    Since the herb Stevia also provides sweet taste without calories, is there any danger
    that it might confuse the body in the same way?
    As far as I know it is a good herb that supports the pancreas, but it is still calorie-free sweetness.
    Your expert opinion wanted, please!

    Submitted by Jon Barron on
    September 19, 2008 - 5:53pm

    By any chance was it sweetened with xylitol -- used in many sugar free gums? Too much xylitol will definitely cause intestinal distress.

    Submitted by Jon Barron on
    February 29, 2008 - 5:36pm

    That's a really good question. And I would have to say ""yes,"" that if you used stevia exclusively, never using sugar, honey, or maple syrup every now and then, that your body would end up reprogramming itself when faced with sweets -- just as if you used artificial sweeteners, but without the other nasty side effects.

    Submitted by Maria on
    September 19, 2008 - 3:54pm

    I have been consuming large amount of ""sugar free"" chewing gum. I suffer with IBS and have been having huge attacks of late and not knowing why. I stopped chewing for two weeks and was remarkably better and the bloating symptoms have gone. Now having read the effects of artificial sweetners, I know why. Thankyou for the info, it was a great help and answered what I suspected. The artifical sweetners hightened my problem.

    Submitted by Rosie Lopez on
    March 30, 2009 - 6:08am

    that is not true.
    ok first of all in my country they taught me that everyone doesn't make it out alive in this world anyway. I am a certified nutrionist who studies science at the university of colorado. I went to yale and studied the fundementamels of nutrition. You can't just look on the internet and believe everything you read. It's not scientifically proven on the internet.

    Submitted by Ana on
    April 8, 2012 - 12:52pm

    Is this also true for Stevia?

    Submitted by BaselineFoundation on
    April 11, 2012 - 2:11pm

    See Jon's response above on this. 

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