Tuesday, February 12, 2008

diet sodas: not so "diet" afterall

Casting doubt on the benefit of low-calorie sweeteners, research released Sunday reported that rats on diets containing saccharin gained more weight than rats given sugary food.

The study in the journal Behavioral Neuroscience found that the calorie-free artificial sweetener appeared to break the physiological connection between sweet tastes and calories, driving the rats to overeat...

Researchers have puzzled over whether diet soda is a marker for poor eating habits or diet soda ingredients cause people to put on pounds, she said. "This rat study suggests a component of the artificial sweetener may be responsible for the weight gain."

Steffen's own recent research has shown that people who drink diet soda have a higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome -- a cluster of symptoms including obesity -- than do people who drink regular soda. Her research was published last month in the American Heart Assn.'s journal Circulation...

One interpretation of the trends is that people have been turning to lower-calorie foods to control an increasing problem with weight gain.

An alternative interpretation is that artificial sweeteners lead to biological or behavioral changes that cause people to eat more.

Basically, don't ingest weird toxic chemicals. I gave up artificial sweeteners a while ago, and every once in a blue moon when I go for one, my body physically feels bad afterward. There are studies that link synthetic sugars with an array of health-related consequences that I should expose on a future blog post. There is also a psychological component to all of this. One who lives a dietary lifestyle revolving around synthetic sugars develops phobias of natural sweeteners, calories, et cetera that fuel obsession and form restrictions. Even with out developing an eating disorder, such dietary lifestyles create disordered eating. This phobia of natural sugars escalates into binaries of "good" and "bad" food, that likewise posit the individual as "good" or "bad," depending on recent intake. "Bad" thoughts escalate into guilt and poor self-image, which only refuel obsession and binaries of food.

Again, these tendencies do not indicate conventional "eating disorders"--but they are indicative of disordered eating. And while our culture reinforces and rewards such behavior, it is ultimately unhealthy and interferes with both physiological and mental satiation.

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