Friday, July 20, 2012

Fake Sweeteners? Candy Cigarettes?

Want one reason for your beer belly? How about 100 quintillion? That's about how many bacteria live in your gut. And scientists now believe these bacteria can have a significant impact on your weight.
Consuming high amounts of fructose (a type of sugar), artificial sweeteners, and sugar alcohols (another type of low-calorie sweetener) cause your gut bacteria to adapt in a way that interferes with your satiety signals and metabolism, according to a new paper in Obesity Reviews. (If you've noticed you've been feeling tired all the time and gaining weight, your metabolism may be slowing.) "An evolution of the gut flora to this new sweetener-rich environment has a potential to negatively impact our health," says Amanda Payne, Ph.D., lead author of the review.
How does that happen? As bacteria in the gut process food, they give off byproducts called short-chain fatty acids. These can be beneficial and serve as energy in the body. But as the sweetener-adapted bacteria thrive and become more efficient at processing large amounts of high-fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, and sugar alcohols, they also produce more and more short-chain fatty acids. (Not to imply that sugar is any better than artificial sweeteners.
In those high amounts, Payne says, short-chain fatty acids decrease satiety signals. "This signaling may cause disruptions in our feeling full and hence prevent us from stopping to eat when we should," Payne says.
From other reading I've done, I think this analysis is legit.  Anything would be bad for you or good for you based on the dose and your circumstances at the time.  The right dose of gasoline when you are in a minimal survival situation and have gut loaded with parasites might save your life.  Most other times it would be bad.  Similarly, you can't live long without water.  But three gallons of water in a day is likely to kill you.  
Bottom line: if your body composition and/or health is not where you want it to be, there's a good reason not to eat/drink artificial sweeteners (or real ones).  On the other hand, if artificial sweeteners in low amounts helps you eat stay off of sugar, it may be a good compromise.  In the long run, I don't see a lot of folks having success with the paleo diet by using fake sugars, fake flours and other psedu-neolithic foods.  What seems to work better is continuing to work for genuinely paleo foods and meals that folks are excited about eating.
HT:  Kurt Harris for the candy cigs analogy 

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