Tomorrow is Easter Sunday and no doubt most of Britain will be tucking into their chocolate eggs with delight and glee to celebrate the end of lent and denial. Shortly after Easter many happy easter egg eaters will feel a little uncomfortable and decide that it is now time to lose weight for the summer or that family wedding or to fit into the mini bikini sitting at the back of the cupboard.
The first thing that many people do in their desperation to lose those extra love handles is to switch from sugar to artificial sweeteners. The shelves are now full of products stuffed with artificial sweeteners with the message that now you don’t need to miss out or sacrifice taste for your waistline.
The message that artificial sweeteners are somehow good for weight loss is one that has been around since the early days of saccharine in the 60s and 50s. Unfortunately, even though it might be an old message it is a very misleading message. The truth is that these nasty concoctions of chemists are frankly a really unpleasant side of modern food production but putting aside the issue of whether anyone should be eating complex chemical concoctions there are two critical issues which most people looking to weight are not aware of.
Firstly the body is clever but it cannot recognise sugar from sweeteners when they hit the tongue. So at the moment that your tongue picks up a sweet taste it will do what the body will always do and that is send a message to the pancreas that something sweet is about to hit the blood stream. This allows the body to prepare for a sugar hit and therefore the pancreas will release a shot of insulin to deal with the anticipated sugar in the blood stream – otherwise known as glucose. Even though there is no spike in the blood sugar levels because you have eaten a calorie free sweetener, the body has still produced insulin which is the hormone that is responsible for making us overweight. So we have the bizarre situation that insulin has been released unnecessarily and constant pressure on the pancreas can result in the over production of insulin which in turn can give rise to unnecessary fat gain and ultimately type 2 diabetes.
The second problem is that sugar is addictive and whilst it is cheaper than the other white stuff it is just as addictive. Any diet can only work if it changes the way you eat rather than simply deprives you of food for a period of time. Replacing sugar with sweeteners will not break the dependency on sweetness in your diet and that is the very issue that needs addressed. Changing this is not easy but the affects last a lifetime and not just the length of the diet.
So when you see something sweet remember that humans were only designed to eat fruit and other sweet items seasonally and frankly as a very rare treat – not an everyday affair.
23 April 2011