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"Sickly Sweet" - Non-Nutritive Sweetener (NNS) - Maybe not such a sweet deal for your health

Non-Nutritive Sweeteners (NNS) - May not such a sweet deal for your health!

Your body is not "fooled" by sweetness with 0 calories!

NNS without accompanying glucose / carbs may stress the adrenal glands and/or lead to hypoglycemic effect

When our taste buds register a sweet taste from a food that does NOT also provide glucose, our sugar-handling mechanism may go awry and appetite regulating systems are disrupted. 

On sensing sweet, the body prepares itself for receiving sugar.   Glucose is typically cleared from the blood causing blood sugar to drop, but since no ”refill” glucose arrives, the body is forced to induce a stress response to restore blood sugar levels. This requires a surge in ADRENALINE and CORTISOL to mobilize sugar from other sources (liver, muscle glycogen, protein or body tissue). This fight-or-flight response is meant to be reserved for stressful times of need, not merely for eating. The consequences of over-producing stress hormones includes:

• Suppressed immune system      • Increased inflammation     • Reduced thyroid function

To find out if consuming an NNS is having a hypoglycemic effect (with inherent stress reaction), you will need to test your blood sugar before and after NNS consumption.    There should not be a problem if consuming another sugar or carbohydrate at the same time

NNS induce carb cravings / appetite stimulation / hunger pangs / sugar dependence

How ironic is this!

Eating something sweet causes your brain to release DOPAMINE, activating your brain's reward center.   Normally, after registering the anticipated incoming calories, the hormone LEPTIN is released to inform the brain that the expected reward has been received. When the expected calories do not arrive, the need for glucose persists and so your body continues to signal for the missing carbohydrates.  You feel this as a carb craving and in satisfying this need you put on weight. (J. of Phys, 2013; Scientific Amer, 2013)

It turns out that any food without calories, not just NNS, stimulates the appetite

Earlier studies indicated that consuming non-caloric artificial sweeteners induce hunger by causing us to lose control of normal appetite mechanisms:

(1)  Stimulating your appetite

(2)  Increasing carbohydrate cravings - with a tendency to choose sweet foods over nutritious foods

(3)  Stimulating fat storage and weight gain:

This phenomenon was later found to be more general, in that any orally palatable substance WITHOUT calories stimulates the appetite.     However, this phenomenon does not occur without orosensory stimulation (E.g. via capsules) (Mattes, 1994)

However, more recent studies indicate that when NNS are added to caloric products, the augmented hunger does not take place. Mattes & Popkin, 2009)


The Journal of Physiology 2013 Nov 15;591(22):5727-44

Scientific American September 5, 2013


Mattes RD. (1994) Interaction between the energy content and sensory properties of foods. Birch G, Campbell-Platt G, editors. , eds Synergy. Hampshire, United Kingdom: Intercept, Ltd, 39-51.

Mattes RD, Popkin BM. (2009) Nonnutritive sweetener consumption in humans: effects on appetite and food intake and their putative mechanisms. Am J Clin Nutr. 89:1-14. PMC free article PubMed



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