For most people who are trying to lose weight, sugar is automatically the first thing to be taken out of their diet. However, when people are watching their food intake, there is a common misconception that eating “diet” foods will aid in their journey to weight loss. Foods with artificial sweeteners like sucralose not only set you up for failure but according to new research from George Washington University, you’re are also putting yourself at a higher risk for metabolic syndrome, a precursor to diabetes and heart disease.

Metabolic syndrome incorporates a group of conditions that include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, unhealthy cholesterol levels, and abdominal fat. Although each condition is bad enough on its own, by grouping them you’re looking at double the risk of heart disease and three to five times the risk of diabetes. If you are already battling obesity, the risk can become even higher, warns senior study author, Sabyasachi Sen, MD, an associate professor of medicine at George Washington University and author of the research, which was presented at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society.

Dr. Sen’s study was the conclusion of several studies he and his colleagues conducted, which included stem cell research that demonstrated that artificial sweeteners promote fat accumulation within cells, due to the result of increased activity of genes called “glucose transporters”. The more artificial sweeteners the cells were exposed to, the more fat they accumulated.

The researchers also collected fat samples from 18 regular sucralose users, 14 of which were obese. Researchers noted that sucralose stimulated sugar consumption by the fat cells while simultaneously encouraging fat-producing genes, an effect that was much more pronounced in the obese volunteers. This confirmed earlier findings that the artificial sweetener promotes diabetic risk factors: “We have much more confidence that low-calorie sweeteners are causing metabolic dysfunction,” Dr. Sen said in a press release.

Dr. Sen expressed concern in an interview with MedPage Today that artificial sweeteners are “promoted for use in weight loss,” when in fact, their negative effects are worse for those who actually need to lose weight. Currently, he is researching the metabolic effects of other types of artificial sweeteners. The solution? Avoid returning to sugar consumption.

Related: 7 Negative Effects Artificial Sweeteners May Have on Your Body


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