Soda and Artificial Sweeteners

artificial sweeteners weight gain

Artificial sweeteners are either the saving grace of America, or the devil. The first issue with artificial sweeteners came to light when cyclamates (the first marketed artificial sweeteners) were found to cause cancer in rats. So in 1969 cyclamates were taken off the market. Saccharin was the next agent, but many didn’t like its after taste. Then came aspartame (Equal). This had no bitter after taste and became the favorite until someone started a rumor that aspartame killed ants, and was originally developed as a rat poison – this is untrue on both counts.

First, aspartame was developed as an artificial sweetener and second, it does not kill ants (I tried it, as have a lot of others – sadly it doesn’t work). Splenda does contain calories (because of our FDA regulations it is allowed to be listed as “zero calories” but it is not). Splenda has 3.36 calories per packet (1 gram). It tastes like sugar and is generally easy to cook with – however; one package of Splenda is 600 times sweeter than an equal amount of sugar.

Two other sweeteners have joined the market in the United Sates. Stevia- is a product of several plants and was recently approved as a food additive in the United States, and Truvia (a proprietary blend of Stevia made by Coca-Cola and Cargill the Pepsi produce it PureVia). These are essentially all the same. There are some other sugar-alcohols like Xylitol that function as sweeteners.

The issue with artificial sweeteners has been getting use to the sweet taste, and thus an increase in appetite. In rats that are consuming artificial sweeteners there is an increase in their body weight over time as they increase the amount of food they consume. Not that we are rats – but avoiding the overly sweet taste is important. And there is no accident that while many of my weight loss patients consumes large quantities of “diet cola” – they still consume a lot of calories to go with them. It is also no accident that once our patients get off artificial sweeteners, they lose more weight.

People who drink sodas that have artificial sweeteners have a sixty percent increase in stroke and heart disease. Sixty percent!

How do you gain weight with artificial sweeteners? Since they are so sweet, you naturally want food to balance out the sweetness. Increasing the quantity of food allows you to increase the bitter, sour, and other sensations to balance the sweet taste. Remember, your palate always wants to return to a balance.

Overall –avoid the artificial sweeteners. Still- what is better than artificial sweeteners in soda? Simple water. It is free (unless you are in a city where the water tastes bad) and is regulated more tightly than most things

Dr. Terry Simpson About Dr. Terry Simpson
Dr. Terry Simpson received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Chicago where he spent several years in the Kovler Viral Oncology laboratories doing genetic engineering. He found he liked people more than petri dishes, and went to medical school. Dr. Simpson, a weight loss surgeon is an advocate of culinary medicine. The first surgeon to become certified in Culinary Medicine, he believes teaching people to improve their health through their food and in their kitchen. On the other side of the world, he has been a leading advocate of changing health care to make it more "relationship based," and his efforts awarded his team the Malcolm Baldrige award for healthcare in 2011 for the NUKA system of care in Alaska and in 2013 Dr Simpson won the National Indian Health Board Area Impact Award. A frequent contributor to media outlets discussing health related topics and advances in medicine, he is also a proud dad, husband, author, cook, and surgeon “in that order.” For media inquiries, please visit

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Latest Comments

  1. grimmlock says:

    As someone with type 2 Diabetes, I was also shocked when I learned how artificial sweeteners increase insulin resistance because your pancreas still manufacture unneeded insulin, since your body sees the sweeteners as sugar. These things are so bad, it also makes you wonder why the FDA still allows them to be consumed.

  2. anonymous says:

    Artificial sweeteners may be OK in moderation, but you might as well just have sugar in moderation. The healthiest bet, as you mentioned, is to just drink water. Add some lemon if you really need more flavor.

  3. Terry Simpson says:

    The FDA does not regulate sweeteners. The FDA regulates medications and devices – foods and supplements are not regulated by the FDA at all. In terms of moderation with sweeteners – when most are 600 times sweeter than sugar- it is difficult to be moderate. Water is probably the best – why play with chemicals that we really don’t know the entire answer to?

  4. tw says:

    im guessing the people who drink those sugar free drink arent heavy from the drinks but because they ate junk food and fizzy drinks in the first place

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