Tag Archives: Artificial Sweeteners

Not So (Artifically) Sweet | The Paleo Diet

I have had countless clients try to replace their sugar-laden diets with ones rich with artificial sweeteners. While this may work in the short term, it definitely does not work in the long term.1 2 And, the reasons for this are countless.3,

New research shows sugars specifically activate six neurosecretory cells in the brain, which produce Dh44, a homolog of the mammalian corticotropin-releasing hormone.4, 5 Artificial sweeteners do not activate these same cells – possibly leaving the brain in a half-finished reward state – potentially leading to more calories being taken in.6, 7

Not So (Artificially) Sweet | The Paleo Diet

Yang, Qing. “Gain Weight by ‘going Diet?’ Artificial Sweeteners and the Neurobiology of Sugar Cravings: Neuroscience 2010.” The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine 83.2 (2010): 101–108. Print.

Another issue with artificial sweeteners is they are typically much, much sweeter than sugar. Just how much sweeter are these manmade creations? Most artificial sweeteners are 200-400 times sweeter than regular table sugar!8 Many researchers argue this leaves the brain expecting a plethora of calories, and also disrupts the brain’s natural reward mechanisms.9

While followers of the Paleo diet will certainly know that artificial sweeteners have no place in a healthy lifestyle, many who are trying to change their eating habits rely on artificial sweeteners for brief time periods. Not a great idea. As the scientific literature suggests, artificial sweeteners (because they are sweet) encourage sugar craving and sugar dependence.10

Even stevia, which many will argue is a healthier alternative to most artificial sweeteners, is 100-300 times sweeter than table sugar!11 It is certainly not a good idea to be consuming something that sweet on a regular basis – whether it contains sugar or not. Furthermore, artificial sweeteners are typically packaged in foods or drinks that have a laundry list of other negative substances and artificial ingredients.12

Salient scientific studies clearly show how in repeatedly exposing ourselves to sugar, we help to train our flavor preference. In short – the more sweet we eat, the more we crave and expect it. Many studies have shown lowering fat and/or salt intake, over several weeks, leads to less craving of these elements. This is exactly how you should treat sugar and artificial sweeteners.

Not So (Artificallyy) Sweet | The Paleo Diet

Sclafani, Anthony. “Sweet Taste Signaling in the Gut.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 104.38 (2007): 14887–14888. PMC. Web. 7 July 2015.

On a granular level, T1R2 and T1R3 sweet taste receptors are found in taste cells in the mouth and enteroendocrine cells in the gut.13 Stimulation of the T1R2 and T1R3 receptors in the mouth by sugars and artificial sweeteners activates intracellular signaling elements, which trigger peripheral taste nerves and brain gustatory pathways. This is one way in which artificial sweeteners actually have a similar effect to sugar – which is not a good thing.

Moreover, research shows substituting sucrose-sweetened drinks for diet drinks does not reduce total energy intake – and may even result in a higher intake during the following day.14 Artificial sweeteners are not the answer.

Even back in 1986, researchers concluded that the data do not support the hypothesis that long-term artificial sweetener use either helps weight loss or prevents weight gain.15

Not So (Artifically) Sweet | The Paleo Diet

Fernstrom, John D. et al. “Mechanisms for Sweetness.” The Journal of Nutrition 142.6 (2012): 1134S–1141S. PMC. Web. 7 July 2015.

So why are artificial sweeteners still used? Well, quite simply: money and industry.

Artificial sweeteners are beneficial to the food industry for a variety of reasons. One – they are cheap, and can help make poor quality foods taste ‘better’. Two – it makes it seem like they care. They sell you the sugar-laden stuff, and then – if you are ‘health conscious’ – you can buy their artificially sweetened product instead. Either way – they win.

I may be preaching to the converted here on The Paleo Diet, but often times even the most disciplined of us slowly let little ‘cheats’ into our diet – without realizing the long term impacts these seemingly innocuous choices may be having on our bodies and brains. If we have any hope of getting out of the current obesity pandemic we currently find ourselves in, it starts with removing all the sweetness (artificial or not) from our collective diet.16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21 Your health (and waistline) will thank you for it!

 

REFERENCES

[1] Feijó Fde M, Ballard CR, Foletto KC, et al. Saccharin and aspartame, compared with sucrose, induce greater weight gain in adult Wistar rats, at similar total caloric intake levels. Appetite. 2013;60(1):203-7.

[2] Bellisle F, Drewnowski A. Intense sweeteners, energy intake and the control of body weight. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2007;61(6):691-700.

[3] Suez J, Korem T, Zeevi D, et al. Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota. Nature. 2014;514(7521):181-6.

[4] Available at: //www.endocrinologyadvisor.com/neuroendocrinology/sugar-artificial-sweeteners-satiety/article/423644/. Accessed July 5, 2015.

[5] Dus M, Lai JS, Gunapala KM, et al. Nutrient Sensor in the Brain Directs the Action of the Brain-Gut Axis in Drosophila. Neuron. 2015;87(1):139-51.

[6] Fowler SP, Williams K, Resendez RG, Hunt KJ, Hazuda HP, Stern MP. Fueling the obesity epidemic? Artificially sweetened beverage use and long-term weight gain. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2008;16(8):1894-900.

[7] Blundell JE, Hill AJ. Paradoxical effects of an intense sweetener (aspartame) on appetite. Lancet. 1986;1(8489):1092-3.

[8] Pandurangan M, Park J, Kim E. Aspartame downregulates 3T3-L1 differentiation. In Vitro Cell Dev Biol Anim. 2014;50(9):851-7.

[9] Fernstrom JD, Munger SD, Sclafani A, De araujo IE, Roberts A, Molinary S. Mechanisms for sweetness. J Nutr. 2012;142(6):1134S-41S.

[10] Yang Q. Gain weight by “going diet?” Artificial sweeteners and the neurobiology of sugar cravings: Neuroscience 2010. Yale J Biol Med. 2010;83(2):101-8.

[11] Goyal SK, Samsher, Goyal RK. Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) a bio-sweetener: a review. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2010;61(1):1-10.

[12] Kellett GL, Brot-laroche E, Mace OJ, Leturque A. Sugar absorption in the intestine: the role of GLUT2. Annu Rev Nutr. 2008;28:35-54.

[13] Sclafani A. Sweet taste signaling in the gut. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2007;104(38):14887-8.

[14] Lavin JH, French SJ, Read NW. The effect of sucrose- and aspartame-sweetened drinks on energy intake, hunger and food choice of female, moderately restrained eaters. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 1997;21(1):37-42.

[15] Stellman SD, Garfinkel L. Artificial sweetener use and one-year weight change among women. Prev Med. 1986;15(2):195-202.

[16] Swinburn BA, Sacks G, Hall KD, et al. The global obesity pandemic: shaped by global drivers and local environments. Lancet. 2011;378(9793):804-14.

[17] Soeliman FA, Azadbakht L. Weight loss maintenance: A review on dietary related strategies. J Res Med Sci. 2014;19(3):268-75.

[18] Lustig RH. Fructose: metabolic, hedonic, and societal parallels with ethanol. J Am Diet Assoc. 2010;110(9):1307-21.

[19] Isganaitis E, Lustig RH. Fast food, central nervous system insulin resistance, and obesity. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2005;25(12):2451-62.

[20] Lustig RH, Sen S, Soberman JE, Velasquez-mieyer PA. Obesity, leptin resistance, and the effects of insulin reduction. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2004;28(10):1344-8.

[21] Lustig RH. The neuroendocrinology of obesity. Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am. 2001;30(3):765-85.

Artificial Sweeteners | The Paleo Diet

Introduction: Evolutionary Perspective

It’s pretty clear that if we follow the example of our hunter gatherer ancestors, artificial sweeteners should not be part of contemporary Stone Age diets. In my book, The Paleo Diet Revised (2010)1 I warned against drinking artificially sweetened soft drinks and further strengthened my opposition to all artificial sweeteners in 2012 with The Paleo Answer.2 Over the past few years numerous epidemiological (population), animal, tissue and human studies have demonstrated the adverse health effects of these synthetic chemicals. A particularly powerful study just published in the October 2014 issue of Nature3 provides a convincing argument against the use of artificial sweeteners in our food supply. If you consume artificial sweeteners in the form of sodas or foods once in a blue moon, they will have little or no adverse effects upon your long term health. However, I would never recommend that you drink artificially sweetened beverages or foods on a daily or even weekly basis, as they may promote insulin resistance,3, 4 obesity in adults5-7, 30-33 and children,8-11, 32, 44 metabolic syndrome diseases,12-18, 33 migraine headaches,19-23 adverse pregnancy outcomes,24-26 childhood allergies,24 and certain cancers.27-29

Artificial Sweeteners

The table* below shows the five artificial sweeteners that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved for consumption.

Artificial Sweeteners: Agents of Insulin Resistance, Obesity and Disease | The Paleo Diet

*Note that the artificial sweetener cyclamate was banned in the U.S. in 1969, but is still available in certain countries outside of the U.S.

In addition to these artificial sweeteners, the FDA has sanctioned a sugar substitute, stevia, as a dietary supplement since 1995. Stevia is a crystalline substance made from the leaves of a plant native to central and South America and is 100 to 300 times sweeter than table sugar. A concentrated derivative of stevia leaves called rebaudioside A was recently (2008) authorized by the FDA and goes by the trade names of Only Sweet, PureVia, Reb-A, Rebiana, SweetLeaf, and Truvia.

Since 1980 the number of people consuming artificially sweetened products in the U.S. has more than doubled.32, 33 Today, at least 46 million Americans regularly ingest foods sweetened by these chemicals – mainly in the form of soft drinks, or in a huge number of artificially sweetened products, including baby food.32, 33

Artificial Sweeteners and Obesity

If you were to ask most people why they drink artificially sweetened beverages, the resounding answer would be to enjoy a sweet drink without all the drawbacks of sugar laden sodas. Doesn’t everyone know that soft drinks sweetened with sugar promote obesity, type 2 diabetes and the Metabolic Syndrome (high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and heart disease)? Of course, and the standard line of thought goes something like this, “if we remove refined sugars from our diets and replace them with artificial sweeteners, we would all be a lot healthier.” I can agree with the first and last parts of this argument, but not the second.

A number of large epidemiological studies5-7; 8-11, 44 and animal experiments34-43 indicate that artificially sweetened beverages may actually not be part of the solution to the U.S. obesity epidemic, but rather may be part of the problem.30-33 Unexpectedly, a series of large population based studies, including the San Antonio Heart Study6 examining 3,682 adults over a 7-8 year period; the American Cancer Society Study7 including 78,694 women; and the Nurses’ Health Study5 of 31,940 women have clearly demonstrated strong associations between increased intakes of artificial sweeteners and obesity. Alarmingly, these effects have been observed in children8, 11, 44 as well as in adults, and were utterly unanticipated because most artificial sweeteners were previously thought to be inert and not react with our gut or metabolism in an unsafe manner.30-33, 45

Laboratory Animal Experiments

In the course of the past few years, animal experiments have reversed these erroneous assumptions. Rats allowed to eat their normal chow consumed more food and gained more weight when artificial sweeteners were added to their diet.34-43 The best available evidence indicates that artificial sweeteners when consumed by either laboratory animals or humans promote weight gain by altering the normal gut bacterial biome3, 45 which in turn adversely affects glucose and insulin metabolism and consequently appetite. Who would have ever thought that a mass marketed product which supposedly was designed to help us lose weight may have actually caused exactly the opposite result? But wait, there is more.

Cancer

In 1958 the federal government deemed both saccharin and cyclamate as “generally recognized as safe (GRAS)” artificial sweeteners. Eleven years later the FDA banned cyclamate and announced its intention to ban saccharin in 1977 because of worries over increased cancer risks from both of these chemicals. Consumer protests eventually led to a moratorium from congress on the ban for saccharin, but unfortunately it is still with us today. Aspartame was sanctioned for use as a sweetener by the FDA in 1996, followed by sucralose (1999), neotame (2002), and acesulfame (2003). You may think that anytime chemical additives such as artificial sweeteners were permitted into our food supply, they would have been thoroughly tested and conclusively shown to be safe. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and the potential toxicity of some of these sweetening compounds are widely disputed in the scientific community, particularly in light of newer, more carefully controlled animal studies.27-29

A series of more recent experiments29 from Dr. Soffritti’s laboratory in Bologna, Italy have shown that even low doses of aspartame given to rats over the course of their lives leads to increased cancer rates. This study is important, because many people may consume much higher concentrations of this chemical by drinking artificially sweetened beverages on a daily basis for years and years.

Migraines

Aspartame has also been shown to trigger migraine headaches in certain people because it breaks down into a compound called methanol (otherwise known as wood alcohol) in our bodies. And it’s not just aspartame that may prove dangerous to our health when we ingest these synthetic concoctions on a regular basis. Recent animal experiments27 have revealed that saccharin, acesulfame as well as aspartame caused DNA damage in mice bone marrow. Frequently, it is difficult to translate results from animal experiments into, meaningful recommendations for humans, because large epidemiological studies generally don’t show artificial sweeteners to be risk factors for cancer. Does this mean that these compounds are completely safe? Absolutely not.

Pregnancy

A 2010 prospective study25 of 59,334 pregnant women from Denmark showed for the first time that consumption of artificially sweetened soft drinks significantly increased the risk for pre-term delivery (less than 37 weeks). This condition shouldn’t be taken lightly, as it represents the leading cause of infant death. An interesting outcome of this study was that only artificially sweetened beverages increased the risk for pre-term delivery – and not sugar sweetened soft drinks. A follow-up study confirmed these results.26 Am I recommending that pregnant women consume sugary soft drinks? Emphatically no! But these studies indicate that sugar sweetened drinks may be less harmful to your developing fetus than are artificially sweetened soft drinks.

Cordially,

Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus

REFERENCES

1. Cordain L. The Paleo Diet. John Wiley & Sons, NY New York, 2010.

2. Cordain L. The Paleo Answer. John Wiley & Sons, NY New York, 2012

3. Suez J, Korem T, Zeevi D, Zilberman-Schapira G, Thaiss CA, Maza O, Israeli D, Zmora N, Gilad S, Weinberger A, Kuperman Y, Harmelin A, Kolodkin-Gal I, Shapiro H, Halpern Z, Segal E, Elinav E. Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota. Nature. 2014 Oct 9;514(7521):181-6

4. Horwitz DL, McLane M, Kobe P. Response to single dose of aspartame or saccharin by NIDDM patients. Diabetes Care. 1988 Mar;11(3):230-4.

5. Colditz GA, Willett WC, Stampfer MJ, London SJ, Segal MR, Speizer FE. Patterns of weight change and their relation to diet in a cohort of healthy women. Am J Clin Nutr. 1990 Jun;51(6):1100-5

6. Fowler SP, Williams K, Resendez RG, Hunt KJ, Hazuda HP, Stern MP. Fueling the obesity epidemic? Artificially sweetened beverage use and long-term weight gain. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2008 Aug;16(8):1894-900.

7. Stellman SD, Garfinkel L. Artificial sweetener use and one-year weight change among women. Prev Med. 1986 Mar;15(2):195-202.

8. Blum JW, Jacobsen DJ, Donnelly JE. Beverage consumption patterns in elementary school aged children across a two-year period. J Am Coll Nutr. 2005 Apr;24(2):93-8.

9. Forshee RA, Storey ML. Total beverage consumption and beverage choices among children and adolescents. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2003 Jul;54(4):297-307

10. Striegel-Moore RH, Thompson D, Affenito SG, Franko DL, Obarzanek E, Barton BA, Schreiber GB, Daniels SR, Schmidt M, Crawford PB. Correlates of beverage intake in adolescent girls: the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Growth and Health Study.J Pediatr. 2006 Feb;148(2):183-7.

11. Brown RJ, de Banate MA, Rother KI. Artificial sweeteners: a systematic review of metabolic effects in youth. Int J Pediatr Obes. 2010 Aug;5(4):305-12

12. Nettleton JA, Lutsey PL, Wang Y, Lima JA, Michos ED, Jacobs DR Jr. Diet soda intake and risk of incident metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). Diabetes Care. 2009 Apr;32(4):688-94.

13. Cohen L, Curhan G, Forman J. Association of sweetened beverage intake with incident hypertension. J Gen Intern Med. 2012 Sep;27(9):1127-34.

14. Gardener H, Rundek T, Markert M, Wright CB, Elkind MS, Sacco RL. Diet soft drink consumption is associated with an increased risk of vascular events in the Northern Manhattan Study. J Gen Intern Med. 2012 Sep;27(9):1120-6.

15. Dhingra R, Sullivan L, Jacques PF, Wang TJ, Fox CS, Meigs JB, D’Agostino RB, Gaziano JM, Vasan RS.Soft drink consumption and risk of developing cardiometabolic risk factors and the metabolic syndrome in middle-aged adults in the community. Circulation. 2007 Jul 31;116(5):480-8.

16. Lutsey PL, Steffen LM, Stevens J. Dietary intake and the development of the metabolic syndrome: the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study. Circulation. 2008 Feb 12;117(6):754-61

17. Fagherazzi G, Vilier A, Saes Sartorelli D, Lajous M, Balkau B, Clavel-Chapelon F.
Consumption of artificially and sugar-sweetened beverages and incident type 2 diabetes in the Etude Epidemiologique aupres des femmes de la Mutuelle Generale de l’Education Nationale-European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition cohort. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Mar;97(3):517-23

18. Greenwood DC, Threapleton DE, Evans CE, Cleghorn CL, Nykjaer C, Woodhead C, Burley VJ. Association between sugar-sweetened and artificially sweetened soft drinks and type 2 diabetes: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. Br J Nutr. 2014 Sep 14;112(5):725-34.

19. Abegaz EG, Bursey RG. Formaldehyde, aspartame, migraines: a possible connection. Dermatitis. 2009 May-Jun;20(3):176-7; author reply 177-9

20. Bigal ME, Krymchantowski AV. Migraine triggered by sucralose–a case report. Headache. 2006 Mar;46(3):515-7

21. Jacob SE, Stechschulte S. Formaldehyde, aspartame, and migraines: a possible connection. Dermatitis. 2008 May-Jun;19(3):E10-1.

22. Lipton RB, Newman LC, Cohen JS, Solomon S. Aspartame as a dietary trigger of headache. Headache. 1989 Feb;29(2):90-2

23. Newman LC, Lipton RB. Migraine MLT-down: an unusual presentation of migraine in patients with aspartame-triggered headaches. Headache. 2001 Oct;41(9):899-901.
Araújo JR, Martel F, Keating E. Exposure to non-nutritive sweeteners during pregnancy and lactation: Impact in programming of metabolic diseases in the progeny later in life. Reprod Toxicol. 2014 Sep 28;49C:196-201.

24. Maslova E, Strøm M, Olsen SF, Halldorsson TI. Consumption of artificially-sweetened soft drinks in pregnancy and risk of child asthma and allergic rhinitis.PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e57261.

25. Halldorsson TI, Strøm M, Petersen SB, Olsen SF. Intake of artificially sweetened soft drinks and risk of preterm delivery: a prospective cohort study in 59,334 Danish pregnant women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Sep;92(3):626-33.

26. Englund-Ögge L1, Brantsæter AL, Haugen M, Sengpiel V, Khatibi A, Myhre R, Myking S, Meltzer HM, Kacerovsky M, Nilsen RM, Jacobsson B. Association between intake of artificially sweetened and sugar-sweetened beverages and preterm delivery: a large prospective cohort study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Sep;96(3):552-9.

27. Bandyopadhyay A, Ghoshal S, Mukherjee A. Genotoxicity testing of low-calorie sweeteners: aspartame, acesulfame-K, and saccharin. Drug Chem Toxicol. 2008;31(4):447-57

28. Belpoggi F, Soffritti M, Padovani M, Degli Esposti D, Lauriola M, Minardi F. Results of long-term carcinogenicity bioassay on Sprague-Dawley rats exposed to aspartame administered in feed. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2006 Sep;1076:559-77.

29. Soffritti M, Belpoggi F, Tibaldi E, Esposti DD, Lauriola M. Life-span exposure to low doses of aspartame beginning during prenatal life increases cancer effects in rats. Environ Health Perspect. 2007 Sep;115(9):1293-7

30. Ferreira AV1, Generoso SV, Teixeira AL. Do low-calorie drinks ‘cheat’ the enteral-brain axis? Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2014 Sep;17(5):465-70.

31. Swithers SE, Martin AA, Davidson TL. High-intensity sweeteners and energy balance. Physiol Behav. 2010 Apr 26;100(1):55-62

32. Yang Q. Gain weight by “going diet?” Artificial sweeteners and the neurobiology of sugar cravings: Neuroscience 2010. Yale J Biol Med. 2010 Jun;83(2):101-8.

33. Swithers SE. Artificial sweeteners produce the counterintuitive effect of inducing metabolic derangements. Trends Endocrinol Metab. 2013 Sep;24(9):431-41.

34. Swithers SE, Davidson TL. A role for sweet taste: calorie predictive relations in energy regulation by rats. Behav Neurosci. 2008 Feb;122(1):161-73.

35. Swithers SE, Baker CR, Davidson TL. General and persistent effects of high-intensity sweeteners on body weight gain and caloric compensation in rats. Behav Neurosci. 2009 Aug;123(4):772-80

36. Swithers SE, Martin AA, Clark KM, Laboy AF, Davidson TL. Body weight gain in rats consuming sweetened liquids. Effects of caffeine and diet composition. Appetite. 2010 Dec;55(3):528-33

37. Feijó Fde M1, Ballard CR, Foletto KC, Batista BA, Neves AM, Ribeiro MF, Bertoluci MC. Saccharin and aspartame, compared with sucrose, induce greater weight gain in adult Wistar rats, at similar total caloric intake levels. Appetite. 2013 Jan;60(1):203-7.

38. Swithers SE, Sample CH, Davidson TL. Adverse effects of high-intensity sweeteners on energy intake and weight control in male and obesity-prone female rats. Behav Neurosci. 2013 Apr;127(2):262-74.

39. Pierce WD, Heth CD, Owczarczyk JC, Russell JC, Proctor SD. Overeating by young obesity-prone and lean rats caused by tastes associated with low energy foods. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2007 Aug;15(8):1969-79.

40. von Poser Toigo E, Huffell AP, Mota CS, Bertolini D, Pettenuzzo LF, Dalmaz C.
Metabolic and feeding behavior alterations provoked by prenatal exposure to aspartame. Appetite. 2014 Dec 24. pii: S0195-6663(14)00774-0.

41. Polyák E, Gombos K, Hajnal B, Bonyár-Müller K, Szabó S, Gubicskó-Kisbenedek A, Marton K, Ember I. Effects of artificial sweeteners on body weight, food and drink intake. Acta Physiol Hung. 2010 Dec;97(4):401-7

42. Malaisse WJ, Vanonderbergen A, Louchami K, Jijakli H, Malaisse-Lagae F. Effects of artificial sweeteners on insulin release and cationic fluxes in rat pancreatic islets. Cell Signal. 1998 Nov;10(10):727-33

43. Swithers SE, Laboy AF, Clark K, Cooper S, Davidson TL. Experience with the high-intensity sweetener saccharin impairs glucose homeostasis and GLP-1 release in rats. Behav Brain Res. 2012 Jul 15;233(1):1-14

44. Berkey CS, Rockett HR, Field AE, Gillman MW, Colditz GA. Sugar-added beverages and adolescent weight change. Obes Res. 2004 May;12(5):778-88.

45. Schiffman SS. Rationale for further medical and health research on high-potency sweeteners. Chem Senses. 2012 Oct;37(8):671-9.

Neurobiology of Sugar Cravings | The Paleo Diet

The scientific basis behind the recommendation to cut out sweets for weight loss and overall health benefit is often overlooked.1, 2, 3, 4, 5 Did you know that the more sugar you consume, the more you come to crave it?6, 7, 8, 9, 10 Or how about that eating sweet foods causes a reward in the brain and mesolimbic dopamine pathway?11, 12, 13, 14

The science behind sweet is surprisingly complex, and also paints these foods in a fairly negative light.15, 16, 17, 18 Gambling, shopping, cocaine, heroin, and alcohol – are all common addictions supported by salient science.19 But food and sugar addiction is still questioned – even though our world’s population has never been fatter than we are right now.20, 21, 22 Oftentimes, we see clients turn to artificial sweeteners. And while these may be good as a “methadone” to getting off of sugar, they actually tend to result in weight gain, not weight loss.23, 24, 25

Neurobiology of Sugar Cravings | The Paleo Diet

Yang, Qing. “Images in This Article.” Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 29 Nov. 0005. Web. 18 Nov. 2014.

Neurobiology of Sugar Cravings | The Paleo Diet

Ahmed, Jessica, […] Robert Preissner. Oxford University Press. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 14 Oct. 2010. Web. 18 Nov. 2014.

There are a multitude of reasons to avoid both sugar and artificial sweeteners.26, 27, 28 The body responds to sweet food with a need for more sweet food, and ignores foods that will contain more nutrients, and have more satiety.29 If we look at something like fructose specifically, some researchers have pointed out fructose is nearly equal to alcohol, in both societal function, hedonic and neuronal response, among others.30, 31

Molecularly, the structure of artificial sweeteners is interesting.32, 33 These creations have only existed for a little over 100 years, so we know very little about how our genome responds to them, at least in the long term.34, 35, 36

Neurobiology of Sugar Cravings | The Paleo Diet

Yang, Qing. “Images in This Article.” Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 29 Nov. 0005. Web. 18 Nov. 2014.

In 2008, only 15% of the population consumed artificial sweeteners, but that number has increased every year since. The number of products containing artificial sweeteners has also increased substantially, from 369 in 1998 to 2,346 in 2010. Interestingly, table sugar and glucose activate human taste pathways differently than artificial sweeteners.37

Neurobiology of Sugar Cravings |The Paleo Diet

“Download PDFs.” Altered Processing of Sweet Taste in the Brain of Diet Soda Drinkers. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2014.

Sucrose elicts a stronger brain response in the following regions: the anterior insula, frontal operculum, striatum and anterior cingulate.38 Sugar also stimulates the dopaminergic midbrain areas in relation to the behavioral pleasantness response.39 Your brain can tell the difference between artificial sweeteners and sugar, but does that mean that artificial sweeteners are better for us?

Neurobiology of Sugar Cravings | The Paleo Diet

“Download PDFs.” Altered Processing of Sweet Taste in the Brain of Diet Soda Drinkers. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2014.

The answer: No.40 41 The link between artificial sweetener consumption and obesity is an interesting one.42 Presumably, non-nutritive sweeteners would be a better alternative. However, there are alterations in reward processing of sweet taste in individuals who regularly consume diet soda.43 The more the reward process is altered, the more diet soda is consumed.44

Addictive drugs cause increases in extracellular dopamine in the brain’s “pleasure center,” the nucleus accumbens.45 When you consume sugar, binging on the substance releases dopamine, similarly to addictive drugs.46 The brain responds to chronic high sugar consumption by altering its own dopamine receptors.47 The sugar-opiate similarities are fascinating, and even work at a genetic level.48 In fact, research shows sugar-dependent rats have alterations in dopamine and opioid mRNA levels, similar to morphine-dependent rats.49

The best way to combat sugar cravings and live a healthier life? Consume a Paleo Diet. You will be loading up on nutrient dense foods, and avoiding large amounts of sugar. You will also be cutting out artificial sweeteners entirely. By resetting your taste for sweet foods, a little fruit here and there, will go a long way, to satisfying your sweet tooth. And if you must indulge, aim for some very dark, organic, chocolate. Enjoy the slimmer, trimmer, version of yourself, as a result.

REFERENCES

[1] Chen L, Appel LJ, Loria C, et al. Reduction in consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with weight loss: the PREMIER trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;89(5):1299-306.

[2] Kasim-karakas SE, Almario RU, Cunningham W. Effects of protein versus simple sugar intake on weight loss in polycystic ovary syndrome (according to the National Institutes of Health criteria). Fertil Steril. 2009;92(1):262-70.

[3] Drewnowski A, Bellisle F. Liquid calories, sugar, and body weight. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;85(3):651-61.

[4] Anton SD, Martin CK, Han H, et al. Effects of stevia, aspartame, and sucrose on food intake, satiety, and postprandial glucose and insulin levels. Appetite. 2010;55(1):37-43.

[5] Malik VS, Pan A, Willett WC, Hu FB. Sugar-sweetened beverages and weight gain in children and adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013;98(4):1084-102.

[6] Avena NM, Bocarsly ME, Hoebel BG. Animal models of sugar and fat bingeing: relationship to food addiction and increased body weight. Methods Mol Biol. 2012;829:351-65.

[7] Avena NM, Rada P, Hoebel BG. Sugar bingeing in rats. Curr Protoc Neurosci. 2006;Chapter 9:Unit9.23C.

[8] Rada P, Avena NM, Hoebel BG. Daily bingeing on sugar repeatedly releases dopamine in the accumbens shell. Neuroscience. 2005;134(3):737-44.

[9] Blum K, Thanos PK, Gold MS. Dopamine and glucose, obesity, and reward deficiency syndrome. Front Psychol. 2014;5:919.

[10] Swiecicki L, Scinska A, Bzinkowska D, et al. Intensity and pleasantness of sucrose taste in patients with winter depression. Nutr Neurosci. 2014;

[11] Berridge KC. ‘Liking’ and ‘wanting’ food rewards: brain substrates and roles in eating disorders. Physiol Behav. 2009;97(5):537-50.

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I work in a Pastry Shop | The Paleo Diet

Hi Loren,

I bought all your books, and I love them! I just had some questions. I was making shakes and I was wondering if Pea Protein is really bad for you and if so what can I put in my shake that has protein. I also put flax meal in my shake. I’ve been eating 85% chocolate for some caffeine during the day, is that okay? Is Xylitol bad or good? I work in a pastry shop and try to make my own low GI goods, so I won’t eat the pastries.

Thanks,

Usha

Dr. Cordain’s Response:

Hi Usha,

Thanks for the kind words about my books.  Let me answer your questions:

1. I dont recommend pea protein in shakes because it is a legume based product, and legumes generally contain high concentrations of a variety of antinutrients with the potential to interact with and disrupt normal physiological function.  Peas (Pisum sativum) contain lower and less toxic levels of most antinutrients compared to other legumes, but still are a significant source of phytate, saponins and pea lectin (PSL).   PSL is much less toxic that the lectin (PHA) found in kidney beans and has a low affinity to gut tissue (1) but still may interfere with normal gut nutrient absorption (2) along with saponins which have the potential to disrupt intestinal barrier function, provided they are consumed in significant quantities.  Further, pea protein is a poor protein source because it contains low concentrations of the essential, sulfur containing amino acids, methionine and cysteine.  In contrast egg white protein maintains high concentrations of all of the essential amino acids, contains significantly more protein, and few antinutrients that are bothersome to most people — although egg white allergy affects a small percentage of the population.

2. Milk chocolate typically contains high amounts of sugar and milk solids and has a high glycemic index.  Because of these characteristics I suggest that it should be a “treat” consumed infrequently and in small amounts.  Although coffee and tea arent strictly Paleo, I dont put restrictions on them (except for excessive coffee consumption).  Green tea has a number of therapeutic health effects.

3. Working in a pastry shop certainly could be a challenge for Paleo Dieters.  I dont recommend consuming any products with artificial sweeteners (see my most recent book, The Paleo Answer, John Wiley & Sons, 2012, pp 33-36)

REFERENCES

1. Koninkx JF, Hendriks HG, van Rossum JM, van den Ingh TS, Mouwen JM. Interaction of legume lectins with the cellular metabolism of differentiated Caco-2 cells. Gastroenterology. 1992 May;102(5):1516-23.

2. Utal AK, Verma K, Soni GL, Singh R. Effect of pea and lentil lectins on in vitro absorption of nutrients. Indian J Exp Biol. 1990 Jan;28(1):93-5.

Cordially,

Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus

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