Eating foods with a lot of added sugar is one of the main reasons for gaining excess weight – this is a well-known fact. And excess weight, in turn, leads to the development of deadly diseases: a person may start to have a heartache, develop diabetes, and so on. Therefore, many people prefer to buy products with artificial sweeteners – there is an opinion that they make sweets just as tasty, but at the same time do not harm health and even help to lose weight. Recently, experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that all this is not true. Eating products with sugar substitutes does not help you lose weight, and in the long run can be as harmful to your health as regular sugar.
The harm and benefits of sweeteners
The futility of sugar substitutes in losing weight was described in Science Alert, citing the words of a nutritionist Evangeline Mantzioris. Products with sweeteners appeared on the mass market around the 1990s. At least, it was then that the opinion began to spread that sodas and other “sugar-free” sweets could help in losing weight and preventing various diseases.
Sugar substitutes are natural compounds that can be up to 400 times sweeter than regular sugar. At the same time, they do not provide as much energy as sugar – their calorie content is many times lower.
Sweeteners can be either synthetic or natural. For example, the sweetener aspartame is artificial – it was created in 1965 and is referred to in the composition of products as food additive E951.
Some sweeteners come from plants, such as stevia. This honey herb contains the substance glycosit, which is several times sweeter than sugar. It is believed that stevia is healthier than sugar because it reduces blood glucose levels and helps the pancreas produce insulin.
In general, sugar substitutes are not as bad as it might seem at first glance. However, WHO experts studied many scientific studies and came to the conclusion that it is better not to abuse products containing them. Especially if they are used to lose weight and prevent the development of diseases.
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Does sugar-free soda help you lose weight?
As part of a systematic review, WHO experts examined almost 200 studies on the effect of sweeteners on human body weight and health in general. To the surprise of many, some studies showed that people who ate a lot of artificial sweeteners were, on average, 0.71 kilograms lighter than those who ate less or avoided them altogether. However, some other studies have shown that sweetener drinkers still had a higher body mass index. Perhaps they help you lose weight in the short term, but make it worse in the long term.
Observations have also shown that artificial sweeteners can be detrimental to overall health. For example, with regular use, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases by 34%. They can also cause heart disease, but no link has been found between them and the development of cancer.
WHO experts emphasize that the results of their systematic review cannot be considered evidence that sweeteners are dangerous and should be banned. As part of their research, they were not interested in the chemical composition of sweeteners, and they were not very interested in their health hazards. Most of all, they were interested in whether “sugar-free” products could be used for weight loss. The answer is, given that they don’t help you lose weight in the long run, you can’t.
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Instead of soda with sugar or its substitutes, nutritionists suggest drinking plain water, kombucha, regular tea or coffee. Fruit juice diluted with water is also a good option. It is important to note that bottled water has an expiration date and can become hazardous to health after it expires. For many, this can be a big discovery, so I recommend reading the article by my colleague Andrey Zhukov “What happens if you drink an expired bottle of water?”.