Since going low-carb, I’ve mostly avoided drinking diet pop or making recipes that include artificial sweeteners. Over the past four months, I’ve downed three bottles of Diet Coke and used three small packets of Stevia (a sugar substitute). I’ve also bought and consumed a four-pack of an Atkins chocolate milk-shake product that contained an artificial sweetener, the only packaged low-carb treat that I’ve tried. Otherwise, except for berries, I have forgone sweet flavors.
It could be I’m smarter than I look.
According to a pair of studies presented over the weekend at the American Diabetes Association’s Scientific Sessions in San Diego, sugar substitutes may be almost as problematic for our health as the real thing.
One study followed users and non-users of diet soft-drinks for a decade, and found that the users “experienced 70% greater increases in waist circumference compared with non-users.” Not only that, but people who reported being frequent users (drinking two or more diet sodas per day) had, on average, a 500% greater increase in waist circumference than non-users. As we know, fat around the middle is bad news.
The other study focused on mice and aspartame. It found that a group of mice who were fed aspartame over a period of weeks exhibited higher fasting glucose levels, and equal or lower insulin levels, than a control group that did not consume aspartame.
The results suggested that “heavy aspartame exposure might potentially directly contribute to increased blood glucose levels, and thus contribute to the associations observed between diet soda consumption and the risk of diabetes in humans.”
Neither of those studies seem definitive to me, but I was already leery of sugar-substitutes, and I’m open to the message to avoid them.
It makes sense to me that fooling your body with substitute sugar may cause it to react as if it were getting real sugar.
The truth is, I don’t crave sweets all that much; a few ripe blueberries or strawberries do it for me. As for beverages, I’ve always liked plain, cold water, and just cream in my coffee, no sugar. So it hasn’t been that hard for me to limit my intake of sugar substitutes. The safest thing may be to cut out sugar substitutes altogether. I can live without them, and without sugar itself.
It isn’t a matter of virtue. I’m satisfied eating fat.