If only healthy living allowed you to have your sugar-stuffed cake and eat it too. Years of nutritional research, along with billions of dollars, have gone into letting us enjoy the sweetness of sugar without the extra calories and pounds it brings. We’ve wanted to believe that with the help of artificial sweeteners we’ve been able to defy the maxim and not only have but eat the cake. For many, though, doubt arose not just because it seemed too good to be true, but because in spite of these low-calorie fake sweeteners, the obesity epidemic continued to grow. Therefore, the research reported in this study from the International Journal of Obesity comes as no surprise for many in the functional medicine world who maintained our critical thinking.
Besides the impact of this study on the recommendations by Big Medicine to replace sugar with these artificial low-calorie sweeteners, this study impresses with the fact that it covers a 25-year span, starting in 1985. By looking at the dietary intake of the 2745 participants in regard to aspartame and saccharine and comparing their fat thickness by CT scans, they determined that higher intakes of these two fake sweeteners correlated with increased fat thickness. They also found that these artificial sweeteners correlated with higher BMI, body weight, and waist circumference. While data possibly could have been available sooner with earlier CT scans, this study offers a rare glimpse into what a particular dietary decision can do to someone over such a long period of time.
While the artificial sweetener sucralose did not demonstrate statistically significant changes, the study makes clear that the medical profession and our public health leaders have made a mistake in terms of their past proclamations in favor of such fake sweeteners. In our attempt to avoid the calories, it seems that we as a nation have worsened the obesity epidemic rather than helping it. We as a society want to enjoy the sugary pleasures of life, but we cannot avoid the costs. Indeed, our attempts to do so sometimes seem to make the situation worse.
The answer does not come from putting our hopes in sucralose (which did not fare as poorly in this study) as other studies indicate it has its own issues (see this other blog in recent months on our site). The answer lies in moderation and self-control. God gave us a full range of flavors to enjoy in this life but warned us against gluttony and becoming enslaved to our sensory desires. We should seek to enjoy His good gifts in moderation so that we can steward our health for His glory and for our own pursuit of the healthier more abundant life.
Brian T. Steffen, David R. Jacobs, So-Yun Yi, Simon J. Lees, James M. Shikany, James G. Terry, Cora E. Lewis, John J. Carr, Xia Zhou, Lyn M. Steffen. Long-term aspartame and saccharin intakes are related to greater volumes of visceral, intermuscular, and subcutaneous adipose tissue: the CARDIA study. International Journal of Obesity, 2023; DOI: 10.1038/s41366-023-01336-y
Thanks to Science Daily:
University of Minnesota Medical School. “Study links long-term artificial sweetener intake to increased body fat adipose tissue volume.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 August 2023. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/08/230803213830.htm>.
Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.