Unsweetening the Diet

Unsweetening the Diet
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All sweeteners—natural and artificial; caloric and non-caloric—help maintain cravings for intensely sweet foods.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

The third way artificial sweeteners may counterintuitively 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.

It’s 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 to adapt to the new norm. After that, naturally low-sodium foods taste 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 if you don’t use it as an excuse to eat more junk food.

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Image thanks to Amy Loves Yah via flickr

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

The third way artificial sweeteners may counterintuitively 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.

It’s 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 to adapt to the new norm. After that, naturally low-sodium foods taste 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 if you don’t use it as an excuse to eat more junk food.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to Amy Loves Yah via flickr

Doctor's Note

The other two mechanisms by which low calorie sweeteners could, counterintuitively, lead to weight gain were explored in How Diet Soda Could Make Us Gain Weight and Neurobiology of Artificial Sweeteners. If we’re 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 although most erythritol is absorbed before it reaches the large colon, a small percentage 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 further context, check out my associated blog post: How to Gain Weight on Diet Soda.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

25 responses to “Unsweetening the Diet

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      1. But, I think the question is really “Does Fruit also cause us to continue to crave other sweet foods? As Doctor Greger just said in the video “maybe you use Erythritol [sub: Fruit] at home. That’s great. But then you go on vacation….you still take your preference for intensely sweet food with you, and that may end up translating to the consumption of less than healthy food.” Keep in mind I am not taking sides. I am also wondering, does fruit cause you to continue to crave intensely sweet foods such as candies, doughnuts, etc.?

    1. It’s added fructose that’s a problem. Fructose from fruit is not a problem. There’s a nutritionfacts video about this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nU_RkeA88DY (how much fruit is too much fruit?)

      I’ve summarised the vid here and the research on how much fruit is too much haha: “Fruit is beneficial in almost any amount” as the Harvard Health Letter says. No need to worry about quantities really.. (Assuming you haven’t doused it in oil or salt and so on?) They did studies on this.. The research study described in the vid below put people on 20 servings of fruit (a day?) and researchers reported no adverse effects (and possible benefit) on weight, blood pressure and insulin and lipid levels after 3 – 6 months. They did another study with 20 fruit servings + 44 veg servings (a day?) and same thing.. These guys did have the biggest bowel movements ever recorded (lots of pooping haha) in a dietary intervention though!

      As Dr.Dennis Burkett the fibre man used to say – big stools/poop & small hosptials.. Or small stools/poop & big hospitals. You decide haha.

      1. LOL, I think y’all are proving Dr. Greger’s point :) Your brain is making you want donuts. Someone might be addicted to sugar.

  1. Dr. Greger–Could you comment on the benefits, if any, of eating sacha inchi seeds (also called savi seeds). They are being touted for their omega 3 content. Are the claims justified?

    1. Hi itsme, Have you eaten sacha inchi seeds before? I haven’t just yet, but am certainly curious. You asked Dr. Greger whether the hype surrounding their omega-3 content is warranted. If I may, research confirms that sacha inchi seeds wield an impressive 6 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per serving, comprising approximately 50% of their fat content. And since omega-3 fatty acids promote health in myriad ways, sacha inchi seeds will compliment the 250 mg of microalgae-based DHA that Dr. Greger recommends daily. Let me know if you try them, as I’ll be interested in whether you enjoy their taste.

  2. Hi Dr Greger. I have suffered from chronic fatigue for many years of my life (since my teens). I have also always been a big sugar addict. I’ve been vegan for about 10 months now and am disappointed to find I still suffer from the chronic fatigue. So I have decided to give up refined sugar and processed foods in the hopes that it will help me. I am also hoping to lose a bit of the “chub” I carry around my middle. But I’m confused about fruit – I read a lot of information online stating that fructose is bad on the liver and contributes to weight gain. I know that fruit is the natural form of fructose, but a lot of people seem to say if you’re giving up sugar because of addiction reasons, you should steer clear of fruit as well. I’m quite torn about this because I love having my Dr Fuhrman vege/fruit smoothie in the morning for breakfast and I know fruit is full of nutrients that my body can thrive on. But is fruit consumption sabotaging my attempts to get over my sugar addiction and lose my excess fat? Are there certain fruits (e.g. dates) that I should cut out completely? I often use dates to make raw vegan sweet treats on the weekend. Any help much appreciated! Thank you for such a helpful and informative website!

    1. According to another video from Dr. Greger, dates are fantastic!
      See: http://nutritionfacts.org/video/are-dates-good-for-you/

      Have you had your thyroid checked? Craving sweets, fatigue, cold hands and feet are possible warning signs. I learned this from Dr. Kripps of Kripps Pharmacy in Vancouver. He is 90 and still works one day a week at the pharmacy. Take a look at his video about thyroid at the bottom of this page:
      krippspharmacy dot com

      He also wrote a book on this topic.
      Good luck, Chelsea!

    2. Have you had your thyroid checked? Sugar craving and fatigue can point to a problem there. Iodine can help with this. See Dr. Greger’s video about vegan and omnivore vitamin deficiencies.

      I first learned about the thyroid symptoms from Stephen Kripps of Kripps Pharmacy (krippspharmacy dot com) in Vancouver. He’s 90, full of life and very knowledgable in how to stay healthy. Their line of supplements was recommended to me by a nutritionist in the U.S.

    3. It’s added fructose that’s a problem. Fructose from fruit is not a problem. There’s a nutritionfacts video about this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nU_RkeA88DY (how much fruit is too much fruit?)

      I’ve summarised the vid here and the research on how much fruit is too much haha: “Fruit is beneficial in almost any amount” as the Harvard Health Letter says. No need to worry about quantities really.. (Assuming you haven’t doused it in oil or salt and so on?) They did studies on this.. The research study described in the vid below put people on 20 servings of fruit (a day?) and researchers reported no adverse effects (and possible benefit) on weight, blood pressure and insulin and lipid levels after 3 – 6 months. They did another study with 20 fruit servings + 44 veg servings (a day?) and same thing.. These guys did have the biggest bowel movements ever recorded (lots of pooping haha) in a dietary intervention though!

      As Dr.Dennis Burkett the fibre man used to say – big stools/poop & small hosptials.. Or small stools/poop & big hospitals. You decide haha.

  3. xylitol ; could you comment more on the sweetner xylitol ? I’ve used it and from what I read, it’s really good but I can only read what the seller has to say. Is it as good as it sounds ?

  4. I agree. Not everything has to be sweet. Sweet and salty often mask the myriad of other flavors. My favourite sweeteners are fruits. When I want something sweeter, I use dates.

  5. I’ve been taking date sugar with me in a sandwich bag when I go on trips. I’ll do the same with this stuff. I went to meet my wife’s biological family and when I pulled ripened bananas and dates from my bag, I got smiles from all around. Love knows best.

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