Most diets ultimately boil down to eating fewer calories than your body uses each day. It stands to reason, then, that replacing sugar with low-calorie sweeteners would be a quick way to weight loss. But the science is a little trickier than it seems.
A recent study shows that reducing sugar by substituting artificial sweeteners is effective and can lead to an extra three-pound weight loss. So why are these sugar substitutes still under scrutiny? It’s because past studies have showed that people who used alternative sweeteners were likely to eat more food overall, or to compensate by eating fatty foods.
Studies have also shown that these sweeteners can actually increase cravings for sweet foods. The eater still perceives sweetness even though there’s no sugar, and sweeteners are actually often sweeter than their sugary counterparts.
Your best bet is to reduce your calorie intake by cutting out sweets altogether, regardless of whether they contain real sugar or low-calorie artificial sweeteners.
Once tactic some experts recommend is only consuming low-calorie sweeteners during the early days of a new nutritional plan. The idea is that as you reduce your overall intake of sweets, the low-calorie sweeteners will help fight off cravings at first and eventually be cut out of your diet entirely.
Whether your sweet snacks contain real sugar or artificial sweeteners, they’re likely to be nutrient-deficient. Most artificially sweetened foods are things like diet soda, candy or cookies, and they aren’t going to contribute to your overall health goals.
Dr. Dirk, a weight loss surgeon in Dallas, Texas, couldn’t agree more. As he’s said again and again, there is only one guaranteed way to lose weight and keep it off.
“Eating a balanced diet of small frequent meals and cutting out highly processed foods is the key to weight loss,” he says. “Combine that with daily aerobic exercise and vitamins, and you’ll be good to go.”
And if that doesn’t seem to be catching on for you? Dr. Dirk can get your body into gear. “Obesity surgery works — it makes good nutrition and exercise more effective,” he says.