Eating zero-calorie sweeteners like saccharin may lead to higher caloric intake and more weight gain, according to new research published today by U.S. scientists.
In this randomized crossover trial, psychologists from Purdue University fed one group of rats unsweetened yogurt for a few days, then yogurt sweetened with table sugar. Another group of rats had unsweetened yogurt for a few days, then yogurt sweetened with saccharin.
After five weeks, the rats in the saccharin group gained more weight than the group that consumed table sugar.
Although they were eating fewer calories, the saccharin-fed rats had a tendency to eat more and gain more weight than rats that ate table sugar.
Measures of body heat revealed a slower metabolic rate in the rats fed saccharin, a possible reason why they were gaining more weight.
Saccharin, sold as Sweet'N Low or Sugar Twin, is 300 times sweeter than table sugar. Poducts made with saccharin include: soft drinks, frozen desserts, canned fruits, jams and jellies.
The researchers believe that eating something sweet - regardless of the amount of calories - may trick the body into thinking that it's about to get some energy. Since calorie-free sweeteners provide no energy, the body gets confused, leading to triggers for high caloric intake or slowed metabolism.
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