In an attempt to lose weight many people swap sugar for artificial sweeteners as they provide the sweetness without the calories, so in principle they sound like a good thing. However, growing evidence suggests that they may hinder weight loss and even cause weight gain.
It is not entirely clear why this should be the case but it is likely to be something to do with brain chemistry and hormone signalling. Although artificial sweeteners taste sweet the resultant lack of calories doesn’t activate the food reward pathways. Consequently the body continues to seek foods which will satisfy and reduce the food-seeking behaviour. This lack of reward from artificial sweeteners is likely to lead to overeating and hence weight gain.
The taste of artificial sweeteners does nothing to reduce sugar cravings and dependence on sugar.The only way to eat less sugar is to reduce it in our foods not replace it with artificial sweetness. This may sound easy but by reducing sweet foods and drinks out taste buds change and learn to expect less sugar and cravings will reduce. The more sugar we eat, the more we need to satisfy the cravings resulting in a downward spiral. Instead of replacing sugar with sweeteners increase your nutrient intake and ensure an adequate intake of essential fats. This will help to reduce your cravings. If you do need a bit of sweetness small amounts of natural alternatives such as honey, molasses and agave syrup may help.