Sugar and sweeteners are definitely at the centre of a huge storm.
By now, it is clear that any type of sugar (white, brown, whole organic, stevia (a naturally-source sugar substitute), fructose and so on) is able to stimulate the consequent search for highly caloric food (and often for more sugar) even when sugar is taken in small quantities, but repeated over the time.
Ingesting sweet aliments, if repeated with continuity, leads to elevated levels of inflammation, which are able to stimulate gain-of-weight phenomena through a vicious cycle linked to emergency signals received by the body.
We have always thought that such a situation depended from the activation of “sweet” receptors, for million years guiding the human being through metabolic modifications dependent on what he was eating.
In this topic, previously published articles around the action of artificial sweeteners did show that even those with “zero calories” are able to induce certain nutritional features in the next meal that are definitely closer to a diabetic patient than a normal person, favouring fat conversion of the ingested calories.
Practically, this means that if one drinks a “zero” soft-drink, no calories will be ingested at that moment, but it is highly possible that in the next meal the body will crave for more food than usual, transforming that more easily into fat tissue.
Such a phenomenon linked to the stimulation of receptors (those for the sweet taste) is completely independent from the energy amount contained in the aliment, which is evaluated by the human body through a specific molecule called cAMP (cyclic Adenosine Mono-Phosphate).
Recent studies of a Japanese research group, published in PLoS One, clearly ascribed again these “sweet” receptors to be the likely activator of a mechanism of interference on fat production (Masubuchi Y et al, PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e54500. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0054500. Epub 2013 Jan 15).
Indeed, it is based on such type of signals that the theory of artificial sweeteners as potential gain-of-weight inducers has been generated, despite the caloric intake is very limited. This is a topic faced by DocSalus in many past articles, among which the most relevant was entitled “Artificial sweeteners: causing weight gain instead of weight loss”.
Here it is though the news, which for sure will scare the artificial sweeteners industry off.
In an article published in 2013 in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, it has been described once more the ability of artificial sweeteners to stimulate fat accumulation (thanks to their sweet taste, that acts on sweet taste receptors), and in addition to stop lipolysis, in other words the breakdown of fat tissue, through a mechanism totally independent from sweet taste stimulation (Simon BR et al, J Biol Chem. 2013 Nov 8;288(45):32475-89. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M113.514034. Epub 2013 Sep 24).
Aware of the power of the industrial lobby supporting the use of artificial sweeteners, we make clear that this scientific study refers (for the moment) only to saccharin and acesulfame, but it is highly possible that the same type of signalling mechanism is true for all the artificial sweeteners (aspartame included), and undoubtedly also for natural sugars, including those with low caloric index, as stevia, or those with low glycemic index as honey and fructose.
This type of sweeteners are present in many industrial sweeteners commonly used and are part of the sweet fraction used in either “light” soft-drinks or confectionary products with low caloric content.
In the therapeutic workups starting at our Milan centre (SMA) every day, the “sweetening” topic is often among the most difficult to face, due to the high dependence induced by the sweet taste itself; eventually, the level of satisfaction of everyone is always very high at the end of the course, thanks to one’s own fitness recovery and freedom.
We keep reiterating the absolute pleasure of an occasional dessert, prepared according to traditional and conventional guidelines, to be enjoyed with others and without worrying; instead, we keep fighting against the daily “sweetening” habit, regardless of the high or low caloric content. The final result does not change.