Q. I'm trying to cut back on calories. Is it OK to opt for foods made with artificial sweeteners?
A. If you're looking to lose weight, turning to artificial sweeteners might actually backfire. Scientists at Purdue University have discovered that choosing saccharin-sweetened foods and drinks may cause greater weight gain than plain old sugar. Although their research focused on lab rats, it gels with emerging evidence that obesity risk could be higher among people who frequently drink diet soda.
When you consume sweet foods or drinks, your body readies itself to take in a lot of calories. If those calories aren't delivered, the new study suggests, your metabolic system can get thrown off, making it harder to burn off calories and increasing your chances of overeating later on.
What's more, saccharin (and aspartame) has been linked to cancer in a number of other animal studies. So instead of chugging diet soda or eating artificially sweetened snacks, I'd encourage satisfying your sweet tooth with healthier foods like fruit, sorbets, or a few squares of dark chocolate.
Text by Dr. Brent Ridge