When you go for grocery shopping and see sweet tasting food products or beverages with zero or low calories, what thoughts cross your mind? Is it healthier? Will it help with weight loss? Will it help to control the sugar if you are diabetic? Well, it seems like it should, but reality is murky! If you read through the nutrition label of such products you will find zero or low calorie sweeteners such as sucralose, saccharin, stevia leaf extract etc.
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Zero or low calorie sweeteners may change the gut microbiome (bacteria) which play important role in metabolism, fat storage, insulin/glucose levels, appetite and inflammation. Besides, they may also change the way sweet receptors behave, the way energy is used and the way gut communicates with the brain. Some studies show that these types of food/beverages may make the brain feel not rewarded and crave for more calories! More research is needed to figure out how exactly this plays out.
As a result, there is no clear evidence that zero or low calorie sweeteners can help in weight loss. In fact, some studies showed that they may cause weight gain! Their effect on diabetes and heart disease is mixed.
Hence, sweetness from natural healthier sources like honey or agave syrup may be better than zero or low calorie sweeteners. Water and unsweetened beverages are better than diet drinks.
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