Fitness Nutrition Forums

Artificial Sweeteners Can Actually Cause Weight Gain

Fitday Editor

If you are simply trying to lower blood sugar, artificial sweeteners can be helpful, but when it comes to weight loss, keep in mind that artificial sweeteners can actually increase your caloric consumption, appetite, and weight. Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and saccharin seem like a miracle ingredient to satisfy your sweet craving without supplying you with calories from sugar, but recent studies have proven that detrimental effects of artificial sugar consumption can cancel out any benefits they may have for weight loss. This is due to both a mental and physiological response to eating artificial sweeteners.

1. When you eat sugar free foods sweetened with artificial sugar, you tend to eat larger portions of that food to compensate.

If you are given a brownie made with real sugar, you are likely to stop after one brownie whereas if you are given a brownie made with artificial sweetener you are more likely to eat two or three brownies simply because you do not feel they are as bad for you. This is because when you eat sugar-free items you tend to forget that they still contain calories in the form of carbohydrates, protein, and or fat. Certain studies have shown that the caloric consumption of foods sweetened with artificial sweetener is similar to that of foods sweetened with sugar--meaning you will not be cutting calories by simply switching to artificial sweetener.

2. Many foods sweetened with artificial sweeteners are carbohydrate foods which can increase fat storage if not burned off.

Artificial sweeteners are commonly used in carbohydrate-containing foods such as candy and bakery items. Just because the artificial sweetener contains zero calories does not mean there are not carbohydrate calories in the food. Carbohydrate foods stimulate insulin, an important hormone needed to deliver energy to cells, to be secreted from the pancreas in larger amounts than proteins, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates like vegetables. Although insulin is important for energy delivery to cells, excess sugar and starch carbohydrate energy is converted to fat and cholesterol.

3. Artificial sweeteners increase your appetite for sweets and carbohydrates.

Studies have shown the taste of sweet increases appetite despite where it comes from--artificial sweetener or natural sugar. Because artificial sweetener tastes sweet, your appetite for sweets and carbohydrate foods increases after you eat a food that is artificially sweetened, subsequently increasing your intake of these foods. Sweets and starches are stored as fat if you do not exercise to burn them off so an increase in your intake of these foods can lead to weight gain.

Artificial sweeteners can benefit diabetics or individuals with high blood sugar, but too much artificial sweetener in the diet can hinder weight loss. It may be smarter to use a natural sugar such as agave or honey, rather than buying foods sweetened with artificial sweetener, as part of your weight loss routine because you may end up eating less if you use natural sugar.


Jamie Yacoub, M.P.H., R.D. is a clinical dietitian with a Master's of Public Health in Nutrition She obtained her Bachelor of Science in clinical nutrition from UC Davis after four years, during which time she participated in internships in several different nutrition environments including Kaiser Permanente and Women, Infants, & Children (W.I.C.). After graduating from UC Davis, she went on to study public health nutrition at Loma Linda University where she obtained her Master's of Public Health in Nutrition. Jamie completed the community nutrition portion of her dietetic internship as an intern for a Certified Specialist in Sports Nutrition. She completed both the food service and clinical portions of her dietetic internship at a top 100 hospital in the nation, where she was hired as the only clinical dietitian shortly after. Jamie now works as an outpatient clinical dietitian and is an expert in Medical Nutrition Therapy (M.N.T.) using the Nutrition Care Process (N.C.P.) including past medical history and current laboratory values as a basis of nutrition assessment.

{{ oArticle.title }}

{{ oArticle.subtitle }}