As you’ve seen in this blog, I deal with a lot of myths and misinformation when it comes to artificial sweeteners, particularly aspartame and sucralose. I try to correct them as they come up, but all the nonsense online can be hard to distinguish and remember.
So, I thought you all would like a one-stop-shop blog post that you can easily refer to the next time someone says something untrue like, “diet sodas make you fat” or “artificial sweeteners cause cancer. Without further ado, here’s the first myth:
We’ve all been told that if you want to lose weight, you need to make changes in your diet and exercise habits. A new study published by the American Journal of Public Health found that if you’re an overweight or obese adult, you need to reduce your overall caloric intake to successfully lose and maintain weight.
It makes sense, when you really think about it. In fact, the study pointed out that healthy weight individuals who chose diet beverages consumed fewer calories overall. That’s terrific! So what’s the problem?
Those of us who are overweight or obese are more likely to consume diet beverages AND we’re more likely to consume more calories than healthy weight adults. I mean, we’ve all been guilty of “justifying” at some point: cutting calories in one place, but adding calories in another. Just because you’re ordering a diet soda, it doesn’t mean you can still order a Philly cheese-steak and French fries for lunch and expect to lose weight.
Deep down, we all know that. It’s not the diet soda making us overweight. The study’s author even said the results didn’t prove drinking low-calorie beverages leads to eating more. We shouldn’t be focused on finding that ONE thing that makes us overweight (that’s never going to happen). Instead drink that diet soda, but pair it with lean protein (not fried and smothered in a sweet sauce), fiber rich vegetables, and whole fruits if you want to lose weight. Cutting calories in your solid foods is just as important as cutting them in your drinks.
Theresa Hedrick, a nutritionist for the Calorie Control Council, agrees: “Low-calorie sweeteners are just one tool to assist people in weight loss. There is no magic bullet when it comes to losing weight; individuals need to reduce their total caloric intake (from all sources) in order to effectively lose and maintain weight.”
And if you really want big results, you need to get moving. I’ve been doing a combination of cardio and weight training at the gym for 3 weeks now and I’m seeing some really great results. It’s an hour out of my day, six days a week. That’s not too much to give to myself.
Why is it that at a time when people are trying to make smarter choices for the new year, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) feels the need to bring up unfounded fears about sweeteners? We all know by now that one of the keys to a healthy diet is limiting carbs/sugars and increasing protein and fresh produce on our plates. Using low-calorie, aka “artificial,” sweeteners are perfectly safe and an easy ways to cut down excess sugar in our diet.
As per usual, CSPI questions the safety of diet drinks, which is interesting considering Americans are now drinking almost 50 additional calories of sweetened beverages daily compared to two decades ago. That’s an average of 300 extra calories a day! Diet sodas and other diet foods are not what the CSPI should be so worried about, when you think about it. Especially since sweeteners like aspartame, acesulfame-potassium, saccharine, stevia and sucralose have all been studied extensively and approved for safe consumption around the world.
Of course, after trying to scare the public by listing a couple flawed studies, the CSPI says that for most Americans, the increased risks of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease from consuming more calories probably outweigh the “risks” posed by artificial sweeteners. We agree, diet sodas may help some people lose weight, if those drinks replace full-calorie sodas and if people don’t replace the saved calories with extra calories at other times of day. They are NOT a magic bullet. But you have to love how they wind up contradicting themselves.
If you want to make a healthy start in 2014, the best way is to start is to read labels for the amount of sugar and total carbs in what you’re buying. Try to aim for 10g of sugar or less per serving in any drink or food product. And yes, sweeteners are one safe way to reach that goal.
As we close in on the winter holidays and the new year, it’s important to remember that drastic cuts in calories are just as bad for you as drastic increases in calories. Experts say that significantly reducing the number of calories you consume can actually hinder weight loss efforts. Drastically cutting calories often leaves you feeling deprived and very low-calorie diets cannot be maintained over the long-term. “Instead of focusing on deprivation, focus on making small changes you can live with for a lifetime,” says Beth Hubrich, a registered dietitian with Calorie Control Council.
Instead of opting for a fad diet in between holidays, find a reasonable eating and exercise plan that supports the loss of one-half to two pounds per week OR consider weight maintenance as a goal until the holidays are over. “Adopt healthful habits that you will be able to stick to indefinitely, and always allow yourself a little wiggle room for special occasions,” said Hubrich. “By making better nutrition choices, eating smaller portions, exercising and reducing you overall caloric intake you have the best chance of keeping off weight over the long term.”