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Is Sugar-Free Making You Fat?

 Once upon a time sugar-free soda was the standard doctor recommended beverage for dieters and diabetics. Artificial sweeteners such as saccharin appeared in “no-cal” sodas like Tab® and were considered to be important tools in the fight against weight gain and excess sugar intake. Since then, thanks to a parade of sweeteners from aspartame to sucralose, and the misguided advice of many diet gurus, the diet soda industry has skyrocketed. But alarmingly, so has the American waistline. As we tip the scales into an obesity epidemic we’re ironically slurping more and more diet soda than ever before. How can this be?

Not too long ago researchers concluded that people who routinely drink diet sodas and other artificially sweetened beverages don’t really make much of a dent in weight-loss. In fact, most sugar-free soda drinkers generally have as little success as those who drink regular sodas. But recently researchers believe there may be another hitch. Not only is your diet soda not helping, it may actually be making you fat.

According to a recent piece by Perdue University’s Dr. Susan Swithers in Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism, numerous studies have shown a link between the consumption of artificially sweetened beverages and not only weight gain, but also metabolic syndrome – a cluster of conditions that can increase the risk for diabetes, stroke, and heart disease. She believes there are a number of intricate mechanisms at work affecting metabolism including a reduction in the body’s ability to regulate weight and energy. Through our physiological reaction to the “taste” of sweet, we may actually be sabotaging our weight loss efforts.

Although some studies have associated immediate weight loss in teens who switched from sugar-laden sodas to sugar-free counterparts, it’s believed that in the long term, people who drink diet sodas on a daily basis may actually be setting themselves up for weight gain down the road. If scientific claims of toxic effects in artificial sweeteners aren’t enough to deter users, perhaps diet soda’s ironic counter productivity might do the trick. Still, if you must imbibe, sugar-free is probably the healthier choice for most. However, opting for naturally sugar-free beverages like water and iced tea should really be the ultimate goal for those in the market to shed pounds and stay healthy. After hearing expert testimony that amounted to a primer on school finance, the committee is proposing that the state adopt a unified approach to paying for schools that would clarification apply the same indicators of need to all 1

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Sharon Richter, RD
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Phone: 212.977.7779

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