The word "sweetener" refers to any substance capable of providing a sweet taste. In this article, we will focus attention on those who do not contribute calories. But are these sweeteners good allies against obesity?
Throughout history, we have shown an undeniable predilection for sweet foods. But nevertheless, in the eighteenth century it was discovered that sugar is harmful. At the same time, the beauty stereotype changed to a thinner figure.
Both circumstances caused At the end of the 19th century, the first non-caloric sweetener was created. Thus, the coveted sweet taste seemed to be guaranteed without prejudice to the consumers' state of health. But what is true about this?
Sweeteners are suitable for human consumption
Sweeteners have proven to be safe substances suitable for human consumption. However, it is essential to respect the maximum doses established by official bodies.
However, its benefits in the prevention, treatment and control of overweight and obesity they have been challenged by numerous investigations.
Specifically, its action has been studied on: insulin, appetite, satiety, reward sensation, intestinal microbiota, adipocytes, among others. All these are involved in the genesis of obesity.
As long as the recommended maximum dose is respected, sweeteners are safe for human consumption.
Are Sweeteners Beneficial to Obesity?
Scientific evidence does not support the use of sweeteners against obesity. Next, we tell you the reasons why they are ineffective:
Action of sweeteners on insulin release
Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas and its goal is to remove excess glucose from the blood. For it, transports glucose to glycogen and body fat deposits. Until now, it was thought that sweeteners without calories were not able to stimulate their release. Although this is true, nuances fit.
It is true that, directly, they are unable to stimulate the production of insulin. However, they can do it indirectly.
This indirect effect is due to its ability to accelerate gastric emptying and increase intestinal absorption. Since they are substances without calories, this should not be an inconvenience.
However, its addition to foods that do have them (juices, biscuits, biscuits, dairy products, etc.) makes both conditions are ideal to generate an excess of glucose in the blood and, therefore, a peak of insulin.
Sweeteners without calories are able to stimulate insulin production indirectly.
The instability of glucose levels It involves repeated stimulation of the pancreas to produce insulin. This will produce what is known as "insulin resistance" and will increase the risk of diabetes mellitus, overweight and obesity.
Read more: What is diabetes mellitus?
Sweeteners and energy balance
The concept of energy balance it refers to the relationship between the calories we consume and the calories we spend. A positive energy balance means that consumption is greater than spending, and vice versa.
Despite its low caloric content, Sweeteners predispose to a positive energy balance. This is because:
- They increase the appetite.
- They provide less satiety.
- Its sweet taste is counterproductive. Repeated exposure to a flavor increases dependency by it. If we take into account that its sweetness is unattainable by natural foods, the preference of its consumers for artificial foods is clear. These, generally, contain an infinity of empty calories.
- The idea that the foods that contain them "do not fatten" increases their consumption. The final result will be a higher intake than if we had chosen the food in its original format.
- They reduce the thermal effect of the food. The concept refers to the amount of calories expended in the digestion, absorption and metabolism of food. Its reduction implies a reduction in energy expenditure. That is why the risk of generating a positive energy balance is greater.
- They are not able to activate the reward systems. This is the reason why those who consume them need to eat food continuously in an incessant search for pleasure.
Effect of sweeteners on intestinal microbiota
The intestinal microbiota refers to the set of bacteria that live in our intestine in a symbiotic relationship (mutual benefit). Although their training culminates at two years of age, It can be modified throughout life by various factors. Food is one of them.
Obese people have a characteristic microbiota that, in turn, favors the state of obesity. Today we know that Sweeteners are able to generate it.
The acaloric sweeteners are capable of generating a microbiota characteristic of obese subjects.
Find out more: 6 problems that affect you when your intestinal bacteria are out of control
Action of sweeteners on adipocytes
The role of sweeteners on the size and number of adipocytes – fat cells – is variable. It depends on both the characteristics of the sweetener and those of the consumer. That is why the scientific evidence does not allow conclusions to be drawn about it.
According to the above, we can say that sweeteners are not good allies in the approach to overweight and obesity.