Obesity in a Lo-Cal Can

Dear Health Conscious Reader,

People are still surprised to learn diet sodas don’t give you what they promise. You may drink them because they have no calories. But diet sodas don’t help you drop weight. They make you fat instead. And you can get hooked on them.

I came across an article in JAMA about just how addicting those diet soft drinks are. When you drink them, changes take place in your brain that make you behave differently.1

Your self-control goes out the window. Your body actually becomes addicted to the unnatural sweetness like it’s a drug.

In one study, animals had the choice between cocaine and saccharin. Ninety four percent chose saccharin – even if they were already addicted to the cocaine.2

Early man had none of the sweet foods you have today. And this is when your taste receptors evolved. So now, when you’re exposed to hyper-sweet artificial sweeteners, your brain is tricked into thinking it’s getting nutrition.

When your drink contains aspartame, sucralose, or any other artificial sweetener, you over-stimulate your sweetness receptors. It changes the way you think about the way things should taste.

You crave high-intensity sweetness. And naturally sweet foods like fruit don’t taste as good to you. Vegetables lose their appeal, because they’re not sweet.

Your gut has sweetness receptors, too. It’s all ready to absorb nutrients, so you get a surge in hormones, like insulin. But when the calories don’t arrive, your body tells your brain to go out and get them.

Your appetite increases, and you get cravings that cause you to overeat. What’s worse, you turn to high-carbohydrate foods and sweets to make up the calorie void.3

But now, the insulin you’ve poured into your blood tells your body to turn whatever you do eat into fat.

I read one study of almost 2,600 people. Those who drank diet sodas had a 47 percent higher body mass index (BMI) than those who didn’t, and their risk of obesity was doubled.4

The solution? Go back to the real thing.

When you switch to naturally sweet drinks, your taste receptors adjust and go back to normal. You regain the ability to taste the sweetness found in natural foods and drinks. Your nutrition and the quality of your diet improve.5 And it’s far easier to drop weight.6

There are a lot of natural juices at the grocery store. But every one goes through processing and sits on the shelves, losing nutrients quickly. If you must buy them, stick to organic brands in glass bottles such as R.W. Knudsen, Lakewood, or Santa Cruz.

My suggestion is to invest in a juicer or a heavy-duty blender.

Citrus juicers are only for citrus like oranges or grapefruits. Juice extractors are for juicing fruits and vegetables.

A cheaper extractor will handle soft vegetables like cucumbers, tomatoes, and most fruits, but you’ll need a pricier, more powerful model if you want to juice hard vegetables like beets and large carrots.

I like to use a heavy duty, multi-use blender. It keeps the fiber in the drink you make. Throw in bits of vegetables and fruits, add water and ice, blend, and out comes a delicious drink in seconds.

If you blend hard vegetables, you’ll need a strong motor. Get one with as much as 2 hp. Many come with a 7-year warranty.

But there is a world of drinks you can easily make and enjoy without any additional equipment…

  • Brew herbal tea and use honey to sweeten it. Cool, add ice, and you’ve got a naturally sweet drink. Look for organic teas like Yogi, Tazo, and Rishi.
  • Squeeze lemons and add to filtered water to make lemonade. If it’s too tart, add raw, whole sugar or honey to taste.
  • You can make a soda-like drink by blending the pulp of one mango and a slice of lemon and lime with 4 cups filtered water.
  • Use cut up organic peaches, strawberries, and grapes in any combination. Add ice, filtered water, and blend.

To Your Good Health,

Al Sears, MD

  1. Ludwig, D. “Artificially Sweetened Beverages.” JAMA, 2009 Dec; 302(22):2477-2478.
  2. Lenoir, M., Serre, F., Cantin, L., Ahmed, S., “Intense Sweetness Surpasses Cocaine Reward.” PLoS ONE. 2007; 2(8): e698.
  3. Egan JM, Margolskee RF. “Taste cells of the gut and gastrointestinal chemosensation.” Mol Interv. 2008 Apr;8(2):78-81.
  4. Fowler, S., Williams, K., et al. “Fueling the Obesity Epidemic? Artificially Sweetened Beverage Use and Long-term Weight Gain.” Obesity (2008) 16 8, 1894-1900.
  5. Carol E O’Neil, Victor L Fulgoni, III, et al. “Improved nutrient intake and diet quality with 100% fruit juice consumption in children: NHANES 2003–2006.” FASEB J. 24: 561.3.
  6. Ibid. Fowler, S. et al.