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A weighty tale

Food with low-calorie or no-calorie sweeteners like saccharin may actually be more fattening than sugar, finds a study on mice.

health and fitness Updated: Feb 11, 2008 12:39 IST

If you think that you can lose weight by taking low-calorie sweeteners, you are wrong. Better stick with sugar and pour its artificial substitute down the drain. Researchers in the United States have found that the artificial sweeteners are more fattening than sugar as the consumption of the low-calorie substitutes makes it harder for people to control their intake as well as body weight.

In fact, according to the researchers, sugar can actually be healthier than low-calorie sweeteners as the sweet taste prompts the body to go for a large intake of calories. "(Our) data clearly indicate that consuming a food sweetened with no-calorie saccharine can lead to greater body weight gain and adiposity than would consuming the same food sweetened with a higher-calorie sugar," according to lead researcher Susan Swithers.

The researchers at Purdue University in Indiana came to the conclusion after conducting an experiment on rodents who were fed on yogurt.

They found that those rats who ate yogurt sweetened with zero-calorie saccharin later consumed more calories, put on more body fat, gained more weight, and didn't make up for it by cutting back later than those who were given yogurt sweetened with glucose.

The researchers surmised that by breaking the connection between a sweet sensation and high-calorie food -- the use of saccharin changes the body's ability to regulate intake, the Behavioural Neuroscience journal has reported.

The researchers have acknowledged that this outcome may seem counterintuitive and might not come as welcome news to human clinical researchers and health-care practitioners, who have long recommended low or no-calorie sweeteners. What's more, the data come from rats, not humans.

However, they have noted that their findings match emerging evidence that people who drink more diet drinks are at higher risk for obesity and metabolic syndrome like abdominal fat, high blood pressure and insulin resistance that put people at risk for heart disease and diabetes.