How is it that a product that can make people gain weight is allowed to be labeled as “diet”? Doesn’t that word imply that it aids in shedding pounds and is something that those hoping to lose or maintain weight should gravitate towards?
Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc.’s advertising and overall branding of some sodas as “diet” is misleading, so much so that the advocacy group U.S. Right to Know is asking the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate the companies for false advertising. The group says that the use of the word “diet” is a misnomer because the artificial sweeteners that are used in their diet products have been found to cause weight gain rather than weight loss. Diet Coke is sweetened with aspartame, while Diet Pepsi uses aspartame and acesulfame potassium to sweeten its soda.
Evidence that artificial sweetener causes weight gain
In fact, experts at Purdue University found that subjects given zero-calorie saccharin ate significantly more calories, put on more fat and gained more weight than those who consumed foods sweetened with glucose, a simple sugar similar to common table sugar. Additionally, they determined that trying to make up for the weight gain by cutting back on the saccharin later didn’t greatly impact their ability to easily get their weight back on track.
“The data clearly indicate that consuming a food sweetened with no-calorie saccharin can lead to greater body-weight gain and adiposity than would consuming the same food sweetened with a higher-calorie sugar,” the researchers noted.
The researchers theorize that this occurs because artificial sweeteners impede a person’s ability to regulate food and drink intake; the sweet taste essentially disrupts the system’s ability to resist high-calorie foods, making individuals more prone to ingesting items that cause them to gain weight.
Other studies, such as those published everywhere from the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine to the journal Nature, have made similar indications.
For example, information from the journal Nature says that non-caloric artificial sweeteners (NAS) lead to weight gain. That journal states that “…consumption of commonly used NAS formulations drives the development of glucose intolerance through induction of compositional and functional
alterations to the intestinal microbiota…We identify NAS-altered microbial metabolic pathways that are linked to host susceptibility to metabolic disease, and demonstrate similar NAS-induced dysbiosis and glucose intolerance in healthy human subjects. Collectively, our results link NAS consumption, dysbiosis and metabolic abnormalities, thereby calling for a reassessment of massive NAS usage.”
“Lots of scientific evidence suggests that artificial sweeteners are linked to weight gain, not weight loss,” says Gary Ruskin, executive director of U.S. Right to Know. “So how can Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi be advertised as ‘diet’ products? Obviously, products labeled ‘diet’ shouldn’t cause weight gain.”
Weight gain aside, the use of artificial sweeteners has also been linked to a bevy of other health problems including the risk of premature birth, heart disease, diabetes and stroke. Even other sugars, such as brown, white or high-fructose corn syrup, contribute to health issues such as inflammation, autoimmune diseases, sleep disorders and anxiety. Add to this the fact that Americans ingest about 152 pounds of it annually, and it’s a huge cause for concern.
The best bet?
Avoid all unnecessary sugars like those found in all soft drinks (diet and otherwise), desserts, sweets and convenience foods. These foods are filled with large quantities of sugar that can put your health at risk.
If you do eat such sugars, do your best to drastically cut back on their use. Resist products with “diet” labels, and check ingredients to see if artificial sweeteners are used. Instead of desserts, choose foods that have natural sugars that are healthier for you, such as fruits and vegetables.
Sources for this article include: