4. Consuming artificial sweeteners to lose weight
A study in Obesity found that normal-weight participants who drank more than 21 cans of diet pop containing aspartame per week had over double the risk of becoming overweight than those who used no sweeteners. Sharon Fowler, one of the study’s authors and a faculty associate in clinical epidemiology at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, says, “Artificial sweeteners have been associated with increased weight gain in rodents, and in two large studies, daily intake of diet sodas was linked with an increased risk of metabolic syndrome [a group of symptoms related to cardiovascular disease and diabetes].”
Yoni Freedhoff, MD, medical director of the Bariatric Medical Institute in Ottawa, contends that none of these studies has shown a causal relationship between sweeteners and obesity. Among the theories are a psychological effect—people replace the “saved” calories with high-fat foods—and a biological effect, where sweeteners “trick” the brain so people feel less satiated and consume more calories.