Low-calorie artificial sweeteners were originally marketed primarily to diabetics and dieters, but now you find them in a variety of processed foodstuffs and snacks that are not specifically aimed at this target market. But do these zero- or low-calorie products really help you lose weight and/or keep it off?
Well, the research and the epidemiologic data suggest the opposite is true, and that artificial sweeteners such as aspartame tend to lead to weight gain. One reason for aspartame’s potential to cause weight gain is because phenylalanine and aspartic acid – the two amino acids that make up 90 percent of aspartame — are known to rapidly stimulate the release of insulin and leptin; two hormones that are intricately involved with satiety and fat storage. Insulin and leptin are also the primary hormones that regulate your metabolism.
So although you’re not ingesting calories in the form of sugar, aspartame can still raise your insulin and leptin levels.
Elevated insulin and leptin levels, in turn, are two of the driving forces behind obesity, diabetes, and a number of our current chronic disease epidemics.
Over time, if your body is exposed to too much leptin, it will become resistant to it, just as your body can become resistant to insulin, and once that happens, your body can no longer “hear” the hormonal messages instructing your body to stop eating, burn fat, and maintain good sensitivity to sweet tastes in your taste buds.
What happens then?
You remain hungry; you crave sweets, and your body stores more fat.
Leptin-resistance also causes an increase in visceral fat (belly fat), sending you on a vicious cycle of hunger, fat storage and an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and more.