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Food & Health : Food Chemicals Last Updated: Apr 20, 2011 - 9:38:09 AM

Artificial sweeteners help gain weight
By Ben Wasserman
Feb 11, 2008 - 2:33:42 PM

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MONDAY FEN 11, 2008 ( -- Using diet soda and other foods with synthetic sweeteners does not necessarily help you reduce your intake of calories and in fact they may help you gain weight, suggests a new study published in the journal Behavioral Neurosciences.

The study found that rats eating yogurt sweetened with saccharin, an artificial sweetener, actually gained more weight than their counterparts using yogurt sweetened with natural glucose.  Sugar-free sweeteners are used because they do not carry calories.  Researchers suggested that these sweeteners confused the body in interpreting their sweet taste and ate more calories than their counterparts.

Studies have early found a correlation between use of sugar-free or calorie-free sweeteners and incidence of obesity in the United States.  The number of Americans who consume soda, yogurt and other products containing artificial sweeteners more than doubled to 160 million in 2000 from fewer than 70 million in 1987 while the incidence of obesity in adults also doubled to 30 percent from 15 percent.

However, that correlation does not mean that using artificial sweeteners is the cause of obesity or increased incidence of the condition that troubles an increasing number of Americans. The current study led by Susan E. Swithers, an associate professor of psychological sciences at Purdue University in Indiana and colleagues was meant to prove or disprove the possible cause-and-effect relationship.

In the study, nine rats were fed yogurt with saccharin and eight fed yogurt with glucose for a period of five weeks. At the end of five weeks, rats given saccharin gained 88 grams compared to 72 grams in rats eating yogurt with glucose. The artificial sweetener caused an increase in body weight by 20 percent.

The researchers explained that the artificial sweetener confused the body with a wrong interpretation of the sweet tastes.  They said sweet tastes normally signal that the body is going to receive a lot of calories, and the digestive system prepares to react.  As a result of the wrong interpretation, rats over-consumed calories.

© 2004-2008 by unless otherwise specified

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