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Mark Hyman, MD

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Diet Drinks: Helpful or Harmful to Kick the Sugar Habit?

Posted: 04/13/2012 8:00 pm

If you saw the recent 60 Minutes segment by Dr. Sanjay Gupta on the dangers of sugar, you might be scared off the sweet stuff for good. It causes heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and cancer and it makes super bad, super dense, super dangerous cholesterol particles. The data is pretty strong on this. Scientists even locked kids in a hospital, fed them sugar and measured their blood every 30 minutes. It didn't take long for things to turn bad inside.

But if you are thinking that diet soft drinks or artificial or even natural sweeteners are the answer for getting off sugar, think again. Diet drink consumption has increased 400 percent since 1960. It may or may not cause cancer, but the evidence is mounting that it leads to weight gain rather than weight loss. Those who consume diet drinks regularly have a 200 percent increased risk of weight gain, a 36 percent increased risk of pre-diabetes or metabolic syndrome, and a 67 percent increased risk of diabetes. A study of 400 people found that those who drank two diet sodas a day or more increased their waist size by five times.

Seems you can't outsmart Mother Nature. Tricking your brain into thinking you are getting something sweet plays dirty tricks on your metabolism. Artificial sweeteners disrupt the normal hormonal and neurological signals that control hunger and satiety (feeling full). A study of rats that were fed artificially sweetened food found that their metabolism slowed down and they were triggered to consume more calories and gain more weight than rats fed sugar-sweetened food.

In another alarming study, rats offered the choice of cocaine or artificial sweeteners always picked the artificial sweetener, even if the rats were previously programmed to be cocaine addicts. The author of the study said that, "[t]he absolute preference for taste sweetness may lead to a re-ordering in the hierarchy of potentially addictive stimuli, with sweetened diets ... taking precedence over cocaine and possibly other drugs of abuse."

The use of artificial sweeteners, as well as "food porn," the sexy experience of sweet, fat, and salt in your mouth, alters your food preferences. Your palate shifts from being able to enjoy fruits and vegetables and whole foods to liking only the sexy stuff.

My advice is to give up stevia, aspartame, sucralose, sugar alcohols like xylitol and malitol, and all of the other heavily-used and marketed sweeteners unless you want to slow down your metabolism, gain weight, and become an addict. Some may be worse than others, like aspartame, which is what we call an excitotoxin, that can cause neurologic symptoms like brain fog, migraines or worse. And some may just give you bad gas because they ferment in your gut, like the sugar alcohols (anything that ends in "ol" like xylitol). Others like stevia, which comes from a South American plant, may be slightly better and could be enjoyed from time to time, but they all keep us yearning for more and more -- so our brains get confused, we eat more food and we get fatter. There are ways to cut cravings by naturally balancing your blood sugar.

So if you want something sweet, enjoy the real thing from time to time. But stay away from fake sugars or fake food or factory made science projects of any kind.

To learn more please see The Blood Sugar Solution. Get one book or get two and give one to someone you love -- you might be saving their life. When you purchase the book from this link you will automatically receive access to the following special bonuses:

  • Special Report -- Diabetes and Alzheimer's: The Truth About "Type 3 Diabetes" and How You Can Avoid It.
  • More Delicious Recipes: 15 Additional Ways to Make The Blood Sugar Solution as Tasty as It's Healthy!
  • Dr. Hyman's UltraWellness Nutrition Coaching -- FREE for 30 days!
  • First 30 minutes of The Blood Sugar Solution Workshop DVD

Now I'd like to hear from you...

Do you drink diet soda?

How have they affected your health and your weight?

Do you use artificial sweeteners and will you continue to do so?

Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

To your good health,

Mark Hyman, MD

Mark Hyman, M.D. is a practicing physician, founder of The UltraWellness Center, a four-time New York Times bestselling author, and an international leader in the field of Functional Medicine. You can follow him on Twitter, connect with him on LinkedIn, watch his videos on YouTube, become a fan on Facebook, and subscribe to his newsletter.

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