Artificial Sweeteners Support Obesity.

You Promote Body Fat With Diet Drinks.

Diet Drinks Do Not Help You to Lose Weight.
Credit: Jenny Downling


Artificial sweeteners are a major cause of obesity. The body fat-promoting effect of artificial sweeteners  is effectively camouflaged by the zero caloric value of these sugar substitutes. This zero caloric value  also makes artificial sweeteners an  insidious and dangerous  body fat maker that can victimize some health-conscious individuals.  Some people  consume  these sweeteners in diet drinks and foods in a care-free fashion because they are calorie-free.  Since artificial sweeteners are widely consumed, many people join the ranks of the obese, and the obesity epidemic continues to rise.  The point that artificial sweeteners are more fattening than ordinary table sugar (sucrose) is largely ignored by some people.  On the other hand, a significant number of consumers are unaware that artificial sweeteners are more fattening than ordinary table sugar.

  Body Fat

 Some  people consume artificial sweeteners on the assumption that they are taking constructive measures to lose body fat and promote good health.  The false argument that zero calorie sweeteners can not possibly cause  weight gain is deeply internalized as a self-evident truth among some consumers of artificial sweeteners.. Additionally, the easy math using zero calorie for computing caloric intake, makes low caloric sweeteners  winners in the battle against obesity for some people.  This seemingly self-evident math in body weight control  becomes quite illogical in the context of human physiology.  Consequently a person promotes body fat instead of weight loss when artificial sweeteners are consumed.  In matters dealing with biological systems, it is a mistake to put a premium on math if the conclusion from the math is discordant with sound  physiological data.

 Evidence of Body Weight Gain 

 The point that artificial sweeteners promote  body fat and weight gain is supported by numerous good studies.  No significant study supports the contention that artificial sweeteners  are helpful for weight loss.  The contention is supported largely by the extrapolations of the potential significance of the zero caloric value of the sweeteners for body fat reduction.

 Davidson and Swithers  are among the major investigators who linked artificial sweeteners with obesity and weight gain.  In numerous well-controlled studies using  rats (1,2,3) they showed that artificial sweeteners support obesity.  They also showed that artificial sweeteners increased the amount of food consumed by the rats.  This increase in appetite was also demonstrated in rats by  N. A. King and colleagues (4)  under conditions of increased physical activity.  It should be pointed out that the rat is a well-established animal model for studying energy metabolism.  This model is important because It is easy to perform well-controlled studies using rats compared to using humans.


 The mechanisms by which artificial sweeteners support obesity are not well understood. This  should not detract from the data linking excess body fat and artificial sweeteners. One proposed explanation is that artificial sweeteners disrupt the hunger control mechanism so that you  end up eating more food than you would  ordinarily consume. Consequently, artificial sweeteners would make it more difficult for you to control  your appetite.   Another explanation is that  artificial sweeteners can decrease insulin sensitivity and slow down your metabolism.  Some of the proposed explanations would likely be questioned and challenged as more data become available.  Although a  clear and definitive mechanism of action would strongly support the available data, such a strong support is not necessary to recognize that artificial sweeteners promote obesity. The adverse effects of a substance can be fully appreciated even if the mechanism remains obscure.

 Common Artificial Sweeteners

 Most diet drinks and diet foods are sweetened with artificial sweeteners.  The most commonly used sweeteners  include  aspartame (marketed as Nutrasweet, equal and spoonful), saccharin,  sucralose (splenda) and  acesulfane k (sweet one).  These sweeteners are 200 to 700 times sweeter than table sugar (sucrose).  Because of the intense sweetness of these sweeteners,  they are often called  high intensity sweeteners. 

 Since  small quantities of these  high intensity sweeteners are needed to sweeten foods and drinks,  some consumers of artificial sweeteners  contend that the small amounts of the sweeteners in the drinks and foods can not be that harmful.  This view  is often taken by the mistaken assumption that  an artificial sweetener is  food,  a low caloric food.   An artificial sweetener is not  food.  It is a food additive that promotes weight gain when used in amounts that are negligibly small compared to foods that are consumed.