How diet soda expands your waistline
You might reach for a diet soda during the week for a pick-me-up, or perhaps use it as a mixer for a quiet sip of vodka on a Friday night, but have you considered how that drink could be the key thing holding back your weight loss? What’s more, that it could literally be the cause of an expanding waistline? If you’re troubled by that idea, so was I, so I did some digging.
A quick look at the background of diet pop – in the book, it’s recommended as a 1 or 2 can a day thing to drink if you have a sweet tooth, and in the past it’s been the focus of a lot of debate – whether or not diet drinks cause weight gain, or make weight loss harder. There was a big study done a few years ago that showed a very strong link between diet pop and folks with larger-than-average waistlines, but this of course didn’t prove diet pop was the cause, more that bigger people were drinking it. Now, a new study has been publish, and though there’s a lot of technical details, here you’ll get the distilled version that’s easy to follow, but includes everything you need to know.
There’s been more information come to light in the last few years about how a lot of your body is dependent on the health of your digestive system. And before you think this sounds like it belongs in the category of healing crystals, shamans and voodoo, wait a minute and hear me out. It’s now been shown that a variety of body processes are dependent on your digestion – and in particular one key area is your brain, and how mood is affected by the chemicals that are created in your gut.
While this still sounds a little strange, I think by now we’re all familiar with the idea of good bacteria being part of a health stomach and intestine – mainly thanks to all those yogurt ads (which don’t mention the damage all the sugar in the yogurt does to the good bacteria). This part of true – having good bacteria outnumber bad bacteria in your gut is a very positive thing. Just how positive it is might not be obvious, though.
With gut bacteria in balance, many other parts of your body function better, and it’s good all-round. On the flip-side, if gut bacteria is out of whack, problems can occur in all sorts of ways. One of those ways is how your body processes glucose.
This was reported recently on one of those websites that always pops up in your Facebook feed, but the headline might not have got that many clicks, because it was a little technical with its words. Basically, researchers checked first on mice, to see if artificial sweeteners changed the ability to process glucose (sugar). They found that after the mice drank water with artificial sweetener regularly, that they showed the signs of being less tolerant to glucose. This has a direct link on metabolic syndrome – with which comes diabetes and being overweight. They did extra testing to make sure the only variable was the artificial sweeteners and found that without a doubt, they were the cause – they could even transplant the problem bacteria to healthy mice, and observe the same result.
Next, the researchers looked to humans, and consulted a very large dataset that’s been collected, and includes information about artificial sweetener usage. There was a direct link. Next, they tried this on people who don’t use artificial sweeteners, and more than half the people started showing signs of glucose intolerance in just one week!
One of the researchers believes that specific bacteria in the gut reacted to the chemical sweeteners by secreting substances that provoked an inflammatory response in the bowel – one that would be similar to the response to a sugar ‘overdose’, which creates changes in the body in how it can use sugar through the bloodstream and into the cells.
To summarize – the mice, and the people who were eating artificial sweeteners had different bacteria in their gut, and this was causing an intolerance to sugar – their bodies couldn’t deal with sugar like they used to.
To me, this spells disaster for millions of people, considering how many different ‘diet’ or ‘no sugar added’ products are on the market today.
So what can you do??
Firstly, take a look at any products you’re eating, especially ones that are labeled ‘diet’, ‘no sugar’, ‘lower sugar’ or ‘natural sugar only’, and check to see if they have sucralose, Nutrasweet, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, Equal, Splenda, or any other local brands you’re familiar with.
Next, get aware of the most common diet products that you’ll be around, especially out of their packaging – a classic example is soda. You’ll often find people serving diet soda to guests, as they think it’s a healthier option. Be aware that pop comes in two versions – one a high-sugar drink that will prompt a big release of insulin, and contribute to immediate fat gain, and the other being a diet drink that contributes to changes in gut bacteria that cause problems with weight loss and weight gain.
Finally, if your sweet tooth is starting to scream at you, consider some other alternatives. I recommend stevia sweetened products as there is some research that’s shown no negative effects on weight loss, and it has also been demonstrated to help balance blood sugar. Unless there is new research that contradicts this, I consider stevia to be an excellent sweetener alternative.
My recommendation is that you focus on eating great food and helping to create a healthy environment in your gut. You’ll feel the difference in your energy, mood and weight. If you’re considering the diet yogurt, or the diet pop, my suggestion is to actually go for the full-sugar original – and save it for your cheat day.
You can read the original study here - http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature13793.html