Artificial Sweeteners Could Be Sabotaging Your Diet

by

THERE’S NO DOUBT about it. Artificial sweeteners cause obesity.

I always thought it was funny to see a very large person order a Big Mac, large fries — and top it off with a Diet Coke. I also found it peculiar that I rarely saw thin people drinking diet sodas. So I began to wonder if there could be a link between diet beverages or artificial sweeteners and obesity. As I began to explore this notion, I discovered a number of different research findings that pointed to this very phenomenon.

First, our current obesity epidemic has coincided perfectly with the introduction of large amounts of artificial sweeteners into our food supply. Although we cannot say for sure that this means artificial sweeteners cause obesity, it certainly makes me wonder.

Next, a body of research indicates that just the thought or smell of food initiates a whole set of hormonal and physiologic responses that get the body ready for food. This is familiar to us from Pavlov’s dog experiment, where he trained dogs to salivate by associating the ringing of a bell with the presentation of food.

By doing this repeatedly, he eventually trained the dogs to salivate in anticipation of food simply by ringing the bell – without any food at all.

Think of diet sodas and artificial sweeteners as ringing the bell for your physiology. Today I will explain how that happens and review some of the research that indicates artificial sweeteners may not be all they are cracked up to be.

Stop confusing your body. If you have a desire for something sweet, have a little sugar, but stay away from “fake” foods.

The Problem with Ringing Your Physiological Bells

Ringing the bells in your body with artificial sweeteners is not a good thing. It’s even worse when you ring the bells with artificial sweeteners and then not provide any sugar. Here’s why …

Our brains know how to get our bodies ready for food. It is called the cephalic (for “head”) phase reflex. Your brain is preparing for food even before your fork or cup crosses your lips. This allows you to anticipate and prepare for the arrival of nutrients in your intestinal tract, improves the efficiency of how your nutrients are absorbed, and minimizes the degree to which food will disturb your natural hormonal balance and create weight gain.

So, in a way, your body is already preparing to regulate your energy balance, metabolism, weight, calorie burning, and many other things – just by thinking about food. Any sweet taste will signal your body that calories are on the way and trigger a whole set of hormonal and metabolic responses to get ready for those calories.

When you trick your body and feed it non-nutritive or non-caloric sweeteners, like aspartame, acesulfame, saccharin, sucralose, or even natural sweeteners like stevia, it gets confused. And research supports this.

Studies Show Artificial Sweeteners Lead to Weight Gain

An exciting study in the Journal of Behavioral Neuroscience has shown conclusively that using artificial sweeteners not only does not prevent weight gain, but induces a whole set of physiological and hormonal responses that actually make you gain weight. ( i)

The researchers proved this by giving two different groups of rats some yogurt. One batch of yogurt was sweetened with sugar. The other was sweetened with saccharin. They found that three major things happened over a very short period of time in the rats that were fed artificially sweetened yogurt.

First, the researchers found that the total food eaten over 14 days dramatically increased in the artificial sweetener group — meaning that the artificial sweetener stimulated their appetite and made them eat more.

Second, these rats gained a lot more weight and their body fat increased significantly.

And third (and this is very concerning) was the change in core body temperature of the rats fed the artificial sweeteners. Their core body temperature decreased, meaning their metabolism slowed down.

So not only did the rats eat more, gain more weight, and have more body fat, but they actually lowered their core body temperature and slowed their metabolism. As I have said many times before, all calories are not created equal …

The most astounding finding in the study was that even though the rats that ate the saccharin-sweetened yogurt consumed fewer calories overall than the rats that ate the sugar-sweetened yogurt, they gained more weight and body fat.

These findings turn the conventional view that people will consume fewer calories by drinking artificially sweetened drinks or eating artificially sweetened foods on its head. Despite their name, these are not “diet” drinks. They are actually “weight gain” drinks!

We’re surrounded by low-calorie, “health conscious foods” and diet soft drinks that contain sweeteners. As a result, the number of Americans who consume products that contain sugar-free sweeteners grew from 70 million in 1987 to 160 million in 2000.

At the same time, the incidence of obesity in the United States has doubled from 15 percent to 30 percent across all age groups, ethnic groups, and social strata. And the number of overweight Americans has increased from about 30 percent to over 65 percent of the population. The fastest growing obese population is children.

Here’s the bottom line: Avoid artificial sweeteners, including aspartame, acesulfame, sucralose, sugar alcohols such as malitol and xylitol (pretty much anything that ends in “ol”), as well as natural artificial sweeteners like stevia.

Stop confusing your body. If you have a desire for something sweet have a little sugar, but stay away from “fake” foods. Eating a whole-foods diet that has a low-glycemic load and is rich in phytonutrients and indulging in a few real sweet treats once in a while is a better alternative than tricking your body with artificial sweeteners – which leads to wide scale metabolic rebellion and obesity.

So, put that teaspoon of sugar in your tea and enjoy!

Now I’d like to hear from you…

Do you use artificially sweetened products?

How have they affected your weight?

What sweet treats do you indulge in?

Has this finding taken you by surprise?

Please leave your thoughts by adding a comment below – but remember, we can’t offer personal medical advice online, so be sure to limit your comments to those about taking back our health!

To your good health,

Mark Hyman, MD

References

(i) 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.

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50 Responses to Artificial Sweeteners Could Be Sabotaging Your Diet

  1. Debbie Watson February 17, 2013 at 6:31 am #

    First of all, I don’t think using the word “funny” when referring to your response regarding large people who order Big Macs and fries and top off with a Diet Coke was a good choice of words. I think maybe sobering, or sad would be more appropriate. Second, I do agree that artificial sweeteners do increase appetite and contribute to weight gain, but for me Stevia does not do that. I don’t use a lot of it, just to sweeten my coffee or tea and I make a Cinnamon powder with the Stevia to put on toast occasionally. I am satisfied with Stevia, never get more hungry using it like other artificial sweeteners and SUGAR and have been losing weight using it. I am curious as to why you lump Stevia in with the artificial sweeteners when advising of their downfalls, could you please elaborate a bit on Stevia. Thank you.

    • Madeleine February 17, 2013 at 6:50 am #

      I fully agree with Debbie regarding stevia. Dr. Hyman has advised against stevia in at least one of his books and that puzzled me as well.

      And please let’s all try to be a little bit less judgmental about “large people.” My daughter has an adrenal disorder that caused a tremendous weight gain that results in all kinds of judgments and discrimination.

    • Victoria February 17, 2013 at 12:16 pm #

      I was using lots of Stevia, and found that the more I used, the more I wanted…things didn’t taste “sweet enough”.. I couldn’t drop ANY weight..
      I’m not on the Hyman diet…not using any artificial sweeteners, except for occasional Agave …I find that food tastes betters, I don’t crave sweets!! I’m still waiting for my weight to change, however……

      • Profile photo of Dr. Hyman Nutrition Staff
        Dr. Hyman Nutrition Staff February 27, 2013 at 3:58 pm #

        Hi Victoria,

        Thank you for yourinterest in Dr Hyman’s work. Even agave can lead to cravings and increase fat deposition. For more information check out http://www.bloodsugarsolution.com This program should help you kickstart the weight loss!

        For more personalized nutrition advice, Dr Hyman’s nutrition coaching team would be happy to work with you on an individual level to help you reach your goals. To work with the nutrition coaching team please go to: http://www.bloodsugarsolution.com/nutrition-coaching/ OR call (800) 892-1443 to get started.

  2. Madeleine February 17, 2013 at 6:44 am #

    Sorry, Dr. H., but telling me to “have a little sugar” is like saying “have a little poison.” Even though I am only mildly hypoglycemic — as, I suspect, are many people — a little bit of white sugar sets off a chain reaction that I would rather not take up a lot of space describing. The craving may actually be for Vitamin C. Eating an orange, which contains natural sugar, fiber, and Vitamin C, usually satisfies my craving without thowing my system off balance for several days.

  3. mary February 17, 2013 at 9:09 am #

    I use a lot of artificial sweetner, mostly aspertime. I use it in my food I prepare myself, sweetening plain yogurt, making small amounts of cocoa sauce to drizzle on fruit as a treat. I avoid the types of food that tend to have sugar in the recipe, unless it is a small amount to be used to balance the flavor profile. I have cut back on diet soda consumption, but not completely. I have lost 40 pounds and have managed to stay under or around my goal for two years. I don’t necessarily dispute the psychological effects of “sweet” items. and the lowering of body termperature is interesting finding, but I would like to understand the chemical disposition of artifical sweetners. How does the body process them?

  4. Louis A Joseph jr February 17, 2013 at 9:16 am #

    In my opinion artificial sweeteners do not effect weight gain. I have been using artificial sweeteners now for 1 yr on my present diet. in my coffee, on my cereals and in my cooking and have lost 81lbs I have been able to cut my heart medications in half, increase the circulation (cardio-vascular) in my legs and have virtually eliminated my diabetes 2 by not using real sugar. I could never have accomplished this without the aid of artificial sweeteners. I get my sugar fix through fresh fruit. I do agree with the diet soda. I have stopped drinking diet soda and feel all the better for it. I have substituted non carbonated flavored sugar free drinks. By using a combination of artifcial sweeteners anf fresh fruit I continue to satisfy and calm my cravings. Thank you.

  5. Sandy S February 17, 2013 at 10:59 am #

    The reason I order a diet coke (which I stopped doing) is because I liked the taste better than regular coke. It had nothing to do with the calories. I agree… I think Stevia is very good to use instead of regular sugar. I’m one of those people that need 2-3 tsp. of sugar in my iced tea or cup of coffee, I would never use that much real sugar.

  6. Jamie February 17, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

    I use xylitol in my coffee and tea. I sip these beverages slowly over several hours and I love the fact that xylitol actually protects your teeth from decay. Also unlike the artificial sweeteners you list it does contain calories, but xylitol has a low glycemic index.
    I personally can not stand the taste of artificial sweeteners or stevia.

  7. peter reese February 17, 2013 at 4:26 pm #

    Please explain how saccharin consumption produces elevated insulin. Thank you.

  8. Susan Sparkman February 17, 2013 at 8:41 pm #

    Does this hold true for type 2 diabetics?

  9. Maureen February 18, 2013 at 8:20 pm #

    I, too was puzzled by Dr H’s advising of Stevia as a ‘natural artificial sweetener’ as according to a web page :-

    “Stevia is an all natural kilojoule-free sweetener, stevia is a natural herb the South American native tribes have been using for generations. Botanically known as Stevia Rebaudiana, the glycosides in the leaves of the plant make it hundreds of times sweeter than sugar making it an attractive natural alternative to artificial sweeteners. It has no effect on blood sugar levels and contains a number of protecting and disease preventing phytochemicals.

    Stevia is completely non-toxic and is and has been consumed in large quantities by several countries for many years without incident. Japanese manufacturers use stevia extensively in food products such as pickles, and soft drinks, as well as for general table use. Stevia is available from health food stores as it is considered a dietary supplement. ”

    I will be very interested in a further explanation.

  10. dr john b stevens February 19, 2013 at 8:45 am #

    DR HYMAN, AS SOMEONE WHO HAS RESOLVED METABOLIC SYNDROME AND INTRACTABLE HIP PAIN FROM POLIO, BY ELIMINATING SUGAR, i would dissagree with your statements that artificials are worse and cause more weiight gain that sucrose>… i have lost 37 pounds and weight what i weighted in high school, and have subsituted sucralose for all process sugars, with results which have been totally durable for ten to fifteen years,! no hip pain and complete elimination of the symptoms of metabloic syndrome. so maybe the neurochemistry of rats is not as close as we think. in the face of all the people with diobesity, which you are the guru, leading the way to lifestyle as resolution for the billions with this disease and other metoblic risk, i still think “WHITE “IS THE TOXIN< AND THE CAUSE OF THE LIONS SHARE OF OUR OVERWEIGHT DISEASED WORLD …. APPRECIATE YOUR WORK LEADING THE WAY, JUST NOT SURE ABOUT THIS ISSUE, SINCERELY JOHN B STEVENS

  11. Sandy February 19, 2013 at 9:17 am #

    Every day between breakfast and lunch I have with lemon from my tree and aspartame in a cup of tea. This keeps me going through the morning. I am 5 10 1/2 and weigh 127lbs.

    • Profile photo of Dr. Hyman Nutrition Staff
      Dr. Hyman Nutrition Staff February 20, 2013 at 5:35 pm #

      Hi Sandy,

      As you read in the article, aspartame is not suggested a healthy source of energy and actually may be quite harmful. Dr Hyman suggests balancing your blood sugar with protein-based meals made from whole foods. Please visit http://www.bloodsugarsolution.com to learn more!

      For more personalized nutrition advice, Dr Hyman’s nutrition coaching team would be happy to work with you on an individual level to help you reach your goals. To work with the nutrition coaching team please go to: http://www.bloodsugarsolution.com/nutrition-coaching/ OR call (800) 892-1443 to get started.

  12. Anne Nel February 21, 2013 at 5:29 pm #

    All the way from South Africa!!! Dr Hyman what you said is so true, God Bless

  13. Lisa February 23, 2013 at 7:39 pm #

    Wondering what about Agave Nectar as a sweetener? My mother HAS to have her coffee and she was using aspartame, But when I told her no, she said Stevia. I told her just to put a little Sugar in her coffee..she says that sugar is too sweet for her. Does Agave Nectar fall in the same category?

    • Profile photo of Dr. Hyman Nutrition Staff
      Dr. Hyman Nutrition Staff February 28, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

      Hi Lisa,

      You are correct. If she needs a little sugar, use the real thing! We dont suggest agave nectar being any healthier than real sugar.
      For more personalized nutrition advice, Dr Hyman’s nutrition coaching team would be happy to work with you on an individual level to help you reach your goals. To work with the nutrition coaching team please go to: http://www.bloodsugarsolution.com/nutrition-coaching/ OR call (800) 892-1443 to get started.

  14. Sabine May 21, 2013 at 10:20 am #

    Please be carefull with aspartam sweetener as this has caused my pre-diabetes status. I have been abusing aspartam for over 7 years (sugar free chewing gums and diet Pepsi) and once I stoped it the damage was slready done. I have developed glucose intolerance and hiperinsulinemia eventhought I barely ate carbs (only slow once) and not a bit of a sugar. My Doctor said it is a poison and should be prohibited. He also says that it cheates the pancrea that reacts for “sweet” and do not get the glucose, so after some time simply stops reacting. I am now fighting not to develop diabetes. Three months ago after 75g glucose test, my glucose was 216 after 2 hours. I was shocked as there is no diabetes in my familly. I was lucky to find a doctor that made me do this test (I was feeling extremaly weak). Now after three months of a super healthy diet – whole grains, vegetables, beans etc. my sugar after 2h from drinking 75g glucose is 156, so I am improving and my doctor says I can reverse the process if I continue my diet. Aspartam is for sure to blame as I am thin person, did not ate any white flour, sweets etc. since years and there is no diabetes in my familly. I want to tell people my story so that they avoid that sweet poison!!

  15. how to overcome shyness May 28, 2013 at 4:14 pm #

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  16. Linda1737 December 13, 2013 at 11:34 pm #

    First I would like to say that I have utmost respect for Dr Hyman. I have read Blood Sugar Solution and found it to be beautifully written, analytical, informative, thorough, and well organized. I chew a fair amount of Trident gum which contains xylitol and I drink 2 to 3 cups of green tea every day. Ever since I have been doing this, I have had no cavities and normally I get my share. I have a whopping 14 crowns, so I tend to want to continue my regimen. I have also heard that there is some benefit to xylitol in the intestinal tract. My question is whether there is enough xylitol in 3 or 4 pieces of Trident a day to slow the metabolism or cause any other undesirable effect. Thanks in advance for assisting me with a response.

  17. Kevin December 27, 2013 at 5:13 pm #

    I’d light to weigh in here pardon the pun.. Many people on here are saying they disagree with the said statements that artificial sweeteners cause weight gain as they have lost weight.. but I believe in fact they just might with long term use. I too in 1991 lost tons of weight over 110 pounds and used exclusively diet soda drinks and sweeteners in all my foods and drinks. Fast forward to 2013 and I have maintained the bulk of the weight loss I originally lost but have hovered around 30 pounds above that original weight loss and have a very difficult time losing weight. My caloric intake is very minimal, I don’t eat terribly bad at all and I have to wonder if in fact it does cause weight gain. My thinking is perhaps the toxic build up effects over repeated long term use may in fact be a weight gain factor. Perhaps short term is ok, perhaps long term is not. Lets not judge his conclusions too harshly as he may have many valid points in this post. I have decided to completely go off sweeteners and see how it effects my weight loss.

    Hope to give you all feedback soon.

  18. Rosemary Schindler February 22, 2014 at 10:41 pm #

    Your team often says nutrition-coaching is available but no mention of price etc. Could you please comment. I need possibility of problems in detox program for those of us who have no colon or partion thereof. Thank you.-

  19. Norm May 3, 2014 at 1:09 am #

    http://drhyman.com/blog/2010/06/19/artificial-sweeteners-could-be-sabotaging-your-diet/#close

    I’ve been drinking Diet Dr. Pepper for many many years now and it is my goto drink over anything else. About 18 months ago, I looked at myself in the mirror and noticed that I had dunlap disease. “My belly dunlapped over my belt.” Although I walked about 2 miles per day every day, I lost no weight and seemed to slowly gain over time. I decided to get way more aggressive on my exercise and bought a stationary bike. Over the next 6 to 8 months, I walked 5x a day for about 2 miles AND I used my bike over 40-60 minutes per day. I lost between 12 and 15 pounds. Great start but noticed that the weight loss slowed. I read some where that I need to add in weight training. Done. For the next 10 months, added weight training and did cardio on alternate days. Lost an additional 10-12 pounds. Weight gain eventually slowed again, my clothes were loose, but my belly fat still remained! I continue to exercise intensely, adding resistance and weight when I become comfortable with the weight I am working out with. But still can’t seem to get rid of this gut! So now, I am going to try and replace my beloved Diet Dr. Pepper with water, tea or something else. And hopefully, this will help me lose the belly fat once and for all. I will try and repost in about 4-8 weeks and let you know.

    Thanks for the article.

    -Norm

    • Norm June 2, 2014 at 10:58 pm #

      Well, it’s the end of May now. I switched *mostly* to water. I only drink one can of Diet Dr. Pepper in the morning and lunch, workouts, and dinner are now water only. There seems to be “some” change. The upper part of my belly has gone down. Before, my lower part (top of belly button down) seemed smaller (didn’t stick out as much) as the upper part (part above my belly button). I’ve even added weight to my squats, bench presses, flies, by about 5-10 pounds (leg exercises are always +10 when I’m ready). I’ll check back in in another 4 weeks (perhaps end of June).

      • Rhonda August 6, 2014 at 12:55 pm #

        I was wondering how Norm is doing with the changes you are making in only drinking one diet Dr. Pepper and increasing your exercising.
        Thanks for the past update

        • Norm October 4, 2014 at 12:04 am #

          Since my last update, I switched 100% to water drinking diet Dr. Pepper occasionally now (maybe once every 2 weeks or so). I honestly can not say I see or feel a difference at all. I attribute most if not all of my weight loss and muscle gain to my diet (~2100 calories/day) and exercise (still adding weight to my lifts albeit a little at a time). I don’t eat a lot of processed sugar foods (if any at all) except for fruit. I still have a a little bit of a belly (no 6 pack pushing through). I have lost additional weight (few more pounds) but my belly still sticks out a little. I don’t feel better than when I stopped drinking diet Dr. Pepper either. Not saying that the research or article is false. But some of the assumptions, such as the psychologically rewarding myself with more food or sugar, absolutely did not apply to me. And i swear, that after i imbibe with one or two cans that I drink a month, that I actually lose some weight the next day. So maybe the artificial sugar issues noted in this article don’t apply to everyone. But it implies just that – that everyone should be wary of artificial sweeteners.

          • Norm November 5, 2014 at 3:35 pm #

            I re-read the article again and now have some questions. The “test subjects” were rats. Rats are obviously not humans and not much self control. The article states that the rats ate more and gained more weight. But it implies that they also had access to additional food. My questions:

            – Did the rats in both cases have access to the same amount of food?
            – Was the amount of food controlled at all?
            – If not, why not?
            – Doesn’t this more or less come down to satiety?
            – Non-diet foods are better at satiety aren’t they?
            – Humans aren’t rats and thus should have much better self control, right?

          • Leigh March 14, 2015 at 12:33 pm #

            If Norm is still checking in, I’d like to know if he had tried just tried not having any Dr. Pepper for a couple of days. When I have a carbonated drink (which is usually diet), my upper belly is bloated. It takes a couple of days for it to go down. I think it’s strictly the carbonation and not anything to do with the artificial sweetener.

          • Norm March 29, 2015 at 1:47 pm #

            Leigh – see my 10/4/2014 update. I was drinking strictly water for 8-10 weeks. No soda, not even diet. Just plain old water. The only thing that did for me was that I had to urinate every 2 hours. And i mean EVERY 2 hours. So this meant that I had to get up after falling asleep every 2 hours. It was a horrible experience since I didn’t get any meaningful sleep. My commute to and from work can sometimes be 1.5 hours. This means that I barely make it to work or home without having to urinate again! And trust me, this “theory” that all of these studies claim that when drinking diet soda you “reward” yourself with more calories via desert or more food is just “a theory.” They can study my life all they want and they will never see me reach for candy, cake, ice cream, or more portions of food, etc. just to “reward” myself. I eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch every day so i know exactly how many calories i eat (about 800 to 900 calories). For dinner it’s around 1200-1400 calories. I’m 5’7″ and 147 pounds and work out 6 days a week (4 days are heavy weights, 2 days are cardio/core). I’ve accepted the fact that a 6 pack is a myth for guys like me. I’m not a fitness model nor am i a body builder. And from what i’ve read, all of those pictures you see of guys with wash board abs? They get prep’d because they know that a photo shoot is coming up. They reduce their calorie intake, reduce their liquids (and thus water retention), and dehydrate as much as possible. And they’re constantly hungry. I can get my abs to start appearing by reducing my calorie intake to 1800 to 2000 per day and tighten my core. But I’ll be constantly (and I mean constantly) hungry. Today, i think that I’m at a safe, comfortable weight, with a safe amount of fat for my weight, height and and age. And I still drink Diet Dr. Pepper every day.

  20. Michele May 11, 2014 at 6:52 pm #

    Hi,
    This article is so helpful to me! I heard of Dr. Hyman for the first time this week, but I will be reading more of his work!!!

    I have been SUPER healthy for so long; natural foods, everything home-cooked, no sugar, no fast food, no processed food, no drugs, regular exercise (interval training/working on metabolism), etc. With 6 kids, my weight has fluctuated, of course, but I have ALWAYS been able to QUICKLY get back to a good healthy weight fast….. until NOW!
    The last 6 months or so I have gained over 20 pounds!! Despite regular interval training, whole food eating (I have been low carb off and on for several years… went back to that recently because I thought that was making me fat), and personalized health maintenance/care from a natural health care provider, it is STUCK!! I have NEVER worked SO HARD, and gotten such little result.

    My husband and I were wracking our brains to figure out WHY: finally he said: could it be the xylitol??? My kinesiologist (at the time) raved about it, and tho it seemed too good to be true, I jumped in with two feet. I started out mainly using it to swish with for cavity treatment/prevention 4 times a day, but then also began enjoying sweets again (albeit occasionally). That was maybe 9 months ago.

    SO: could the xylitol be why I have gotten so fat lately? And why it is so hard to lose?

    ALSO: IS THERE HOPE FOR ME? If I cut out the xylitol, can I get right back to my old quick-to-slim-down self?

    Frustrated, and thankful for this article….
    Michele
    p.s. So, can I still swish and spit for cavity prevention/treatment, or would that still be sabotaging my fat loss? I have worked hard for over a year to avoid a root canal and I believe the xylitol swishing after meals, and oil pulling has been my saving grace…..

  21. M W Baumeister May 28, 2014 at 7:48 pm #

    You have mentioned that the sweet taste delivered by artificial sweeteners set the mind and body up to expect the normal sugar sweeteners chemicals to arrive. When they do not arrive the mind and body become confused, but what is there is no sweet taste. For example, tonic water may contain sugar or an artificial sweetener and have no sweet taste. The sweetener is balancing out the bitter of the quinine. So is tonic water going to act like a sweet soda drink?

  22. Jessi June 2, 2014 at 9:04 pm #

    To all the people asking about stevia… It is only a natural sweetener if you buy the raw green powder from the dried plant. If you buy the white powder in a box or packet it has been processed and contains additives. So, it is possible that the doctor would find the raw green whole food powder acceptable, but not the white stuff. An extract of the stevia herb similar to vanilla extract is another way to get the sweetener in a more natural state.

    • Rebecca January 2, 2015 at 8:04 pm #

      Thank you for pointing out the processing factor with Stevia. The whole point of everything Dr. Hyman says in this article revolves around the fact that we need to avoid processed foods. They aren’t natural anymore if the chemical factories we call food companies have gotten their hands on them.

    • Lisa March 14, 2015 at 5:30 pm #

      But why would having “a little sugar” be better than having a little stevia? Sugar is most certainly processed from the original beets or sugar cane.

      I hope the Dr. Hyman team will comment on Stevia. It almost seems like a mistake that it was lumped with artificial sweeteners, and I can’t figure out why no one has answered anyone’s questions on the matter.

  23. dry scaly skin June 14, 2014 at 5:44 am #

    There is definately a lot to learn about this issue. I like all
    the points you made.

  24. Steven July 14, 2014 at 6:16 pm #

    Interesting Read

  25. Kim August 7, 2014 at 6:52 pm #

    I have been using artificial sweeteners for a while, mainly in tea and/or coffee, but I will also eat some lo-cal foods that use them. You say it’s better to have a little sugar than use the artificial sweeteners, but what about diabetics or pre-diabetics? In that case, is it better to still use sugar? I just don’t like water with meals and hate the taste of unsweet tea or coffee. I have to sweeten it with something.

    • Profile photo of Dr. Hyman Nutrition Staff
      Dr. Hyman Nutrition Staff August 7, 2014 at 8:20 pm #

      Hi Kim,
      Even with diabetes, there is room in a healthy diet for a little sugar. It is always a good idea to check your blood glucose to determine how foods and beverages effect your blood sugar. This will help you customize your diet to meet your blood sugar targets.
      Wishing you the best of health,
      Dr. Hyman Staff

  26. Frances September 4, 2014 at 8:22 am #

    I have been using stevia for quite a while in tea. I need to lose 5-8 pounds and my weight fluctuates in this range up and down in a frustrating way. Just this morning I decided to eliminate stevia completely. I will report back as to whether this helps or not. Dr. Hyman’s article corroborates the decision!

    • Leigh March 14, 2015 at 12:38 pm #

      I was wondering if Frances has had any luck in losing weight by eliminating stevia. Today is my first day without stevia also to see if it helps. There are some websites that say it interferes with the thyroid (maybe the conversion of T4 to T3, can’t remember exactly), but I do have Hashimoto’s, so I’m going to stop using it for a while and see.

  27. Dominic Lynch November 30, 2014 at 7:54 pm #

    Artificial sweeteners, are compounds that offer the sweetness of sugar without the same calories. They are anywhere from 30 to 8,000 times sweeter than sugar and as a result, they have much fewer calories than foods made with table sugar (sucrose). Each gram of refined table sugar contains 4 calories. Many sugar substitutes have zero calories per gram.

    Artificial sweeteners can serve a definite purpose in weight loss and diabetes control, It enables people that are either carb-, sugar-, or calorie-conscious to take in a wider range of foods that they would either not be allowed to eat or could only eat in such teeny amounts that they were not satisfying.

  28. Alice Rosa January 14, 2015 at 6:13 am #

    I eat a healthy natural diet with the exception of my morning coffee which I add some unprocessed stevia and my evening tea which I also add unprocessed stevia (2tsps) I enjoy sweetened hot drinks and prefer them to snacking.
    Since replacing small snacks such as a quater of a wholemeal pitta bread with fat free cottage cheese , vegetable sticks with a small amount of hummus or piece of fruit whilst keeping my healthy lifestyle I had initially- I’m gradually losing weight, not a lot because I don’t need to lose weight just maintain (maybe 3 pounds per month) so I don’t understand how they cause weight gain and slow metabolism, I haven’t felt the urge to eat something sweet after my hot drinks.
    My obese aunt on the other side of the family has no motivation to diet and exercise even though everyone nags her to do it, for her health if anything.. she said she wants to slowly adapt to a healthy lifestyle, firstly cutting out sugars, then fats, then lowering her carbohydrate intake. To start, she switched to stevia on her weetabix (instead of 1tsp sugar), and in her usual cups of tea (she normally takes 2 sugars and has 2-3 cups a day). She didn’t notice any change in her hunger but since January 1st she has lost a whopping 9lbs which amazes me as she hasn’t really made any other changes yet.

  29. Sarah February 15, 2015 at 10:00 am #

    This article was very interesting and informative. I think everyone reacts differently to sugar substitutes, as shown by a lot of the comments here. For me, I have a very clear reaction with all sugar substitutes. I have tried an Atkins-style diet several times in the past and couldn’t lose weight. At first I thought it was due to mis-counting carbs in my food, but then I started suspecting sucralose, aspartame, etc. I hate the taste of them, but would use them to help with sugar cravings since sugar=carbs. Fast-forward to this past week, I have been on a very low-calorie liquid diet in preparation for surgery. I am allowed sugar-free liquids and broths, including protein shakes (because I still need nutrients). Well all my protein shakes have sugar substitutes. I have lost nothing in the last 3 days, even as I am consuming under 1000 calories a day. Thank goodness I’m almost done with this liquid diet. Oh, and even during the non-dieting times that I used some Splenda or Nutrasweet in my coffee because I THOUGHT it was better than sugar, I would gain weight even when eating healthily. Which in turn led to shame and frustration that I was doing everything right and still getting heavy. Thank you for putting in print what I knew was happening to myself.

  30. Margaret Istre February 18, 2015 at 6:41 pm #

    I’ve begun using xylitol and stevia together to sweeten my coffee and smoothies because I was trying to stay away from regular sugar and was told that xylitol was low glycemic and stevia was natural. But I have indeed had weight gain that has stunned me. I think I’ll try to adjust to a little sugar and see how that goes.

  31. Sarah April 16, 2015 at 5:26 pm #

    Greetings Mark Hyman! I hope to get a response soon! I am wondering about your views on eating high-sugar fruits, like dates. I usually consume this everyday in my replacement of sweets, refined breads, or granola bars before my intense runs, or weight lifting. I probably eat 3 a day!!! Would you find that acceptable since i’m always burning a lot of what I eat?! I also make myself organic buckwheat bread (with cinnamon and 3 bananas), or coconut flour bread occasionally (with eggs and almond butter). Also, what is your perspective on “stevia” in my desserts when I want to indulge?

    • Profile photo of Dr. Hyman Nutrition Staff
      Dr. Hyman Nutrition Staff April 18, 2015 at 3:06 pm #

      Hello Sarah,
      You’ve made some excellent changes to your diet to eliminate foods high in sugar and refined grains. Fresh fruit is an excellent way to include “sweet” in your diet, and dried fruits are appropriate in small portions. Including naturally sweet fruits and vegetables in your diet is preferable to baked goods. Choose whole, natural foods for the foundation of your healthy diet.
      Wishing you the best of health,
      Dr. Hyman Staff

  32. Summer April 19, 2015 at 2:06 pm #

    I just started a diet and decided that I needed to find a low cal something to drink. I went with Diet Lemonade with sweetners. Well after the first day of drinking it, I had a massive head ache and could not fall asleep till after two in the morning. I gave it up the very next day. I now drink hot water with the juice of half a lemon squeezed into it

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