All sweeteners–natural and artificial, caloric and non-caloric—help maintain cravings for intensely sweet foods.
Image thanks to: Amy Loves Yah / Flickr
The third way artificial sweeteners may counter-intuitively lead to weight gain involves maintaining the cravings of, and dependency on, all things sweet. By continuing to consume any sweeteners—with or without calories—we are unable to train our flavor preferences away from intensely sweet foods. Its like if you go on a low salt diet, for the first few weeks everything tastes like cardboard until your taste buds have a chance adapt to the new norm. After that, natural low sodium foods tastes perfectly fine and adding table salt tastes gross because it’s way too salty. Same thing with the sweeteners. At home maybe you use erythritol—that's great, but then you go on vacation and what if you forget it at home? You still take your preference for intensely sweet food with you and that may end up translating into the increased consumption of less than healthy foods. So those are the caveats even for something nontoxic like erythritol. It’s safe, but only you don’t use it as an excuse to eat more junk food.
To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Ashley Rhinehart, RN.
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The other two mechanisms by which low calorie sweeteners could counterintuitively lead to weight gain were explored in Wednesday's and yesterday’s NutritionFacts.org video-of-the-day. If one is able to maintain a healthy diet at home and away, though, then there may be no dietary downside to moderate erythritol consumption. See Erythritol May Be a Sweet Antioxidant. Just remember that though most erythritol is absorbed before it reaches the large colon, a small precentage remains, so if you eat sufficiently large amounts you can indeed trigger the osmotic diarrhea seen more commonly with the non-absorbed sugar alcohols such as sorbitol and xylitol.
For some context, please check out my associated blog post: How to Gain Weight on Diet Soda
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