Posts Tagged ‘Losing Belly Fat’

Artificial Sweeteners Make You Fat

Late last year, I’m sitting in an office building with the agent of an NFL Player and the player himself.  We were working together to help the player lose weight.

While there was some initial success, he hit a little plateau.  His agent asked the player "what are you drinking?" 

"Crystal Light, diet soda, and water only.  Chris said no liquid calories."

And his agent blew through the roof — "NO WONDER HE ISN’T LOSING" he said to me, "I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU TOLD HIM HE CAN USE ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS.  Didn’t you see the report — artificial sweeteners cause you to GAIN weight more than regular sugar!!!"

And that’s when it got a little awkward in the room.

But that’s how the meeting started.  And I’m now put on defense to defend my position…in front of the player himself who I did in fact tell "no liquid calories" because soft drinks and slurpees were a regular addition to the daily diet.

In another post I talked about if you should use Stevia.  And just last week I talked about the new study suggesting artificial sweeteners cause heart disease.  But now we’re shifting our focus to cover some more specifics about sweeteners — and there are a bunch, like Acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), Sucralose, Saccharin,  and Aspartame. 

Are they a better option than calorie containing sugar options when trying to lose weight and burn belly fat?

Let’s delve into them a bit and discuss some of the realities and myths with calorie free sweeteners.

Each of the artificial sweeteners has an "acceptable daily intake" (ADI) — meaning according to the FDA, you should not consume MORE than the amounts listed below per day.

  • Aspartame (Nutrasweet, Equal) = 18-19 cans of diet cola
  • Saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low) = 9 to 12 packets
  • Acesulfame K (Sunett, Sweet One) = 30-32 cans diet lemon-lime soda
  • Sucralose (Splenda) = 6 cans diet cola

Fair enough?  Now depending on who you talk to, or what you read, you’ll hear all different opinions — "I only use sucralose, because xxxx" or "stevia is natural, so I use that…"

If you look at the values above, you may notice that according to the ADIs, the max for Splenda is just 6 cans of diet cola/day, whereas Equal is 18-19 cans.  Does that mean Splenda is more of a concern than Equal?  It might.

But as a side note, if you’re drinking THAT many diet colas/day, your diet needs an overhaul as there are absolutely zero positive qualities to diet colas (or any diet soda for that matter).

Let’s cover a few of these in more detail.  

Sucralose (Splenda):

While this one has received safety approval from the FDA, it’s surely not without controversy.  Picking sides with this is like jumping in to the Health Care Reform debate!

But I’m ready to go for it.

First, the upside of Sucralose:

  • it has virtually no aftertaste
  • it’s stable when heated so you can cook and bake with it
  • it’s stable at different acidities (pHs) so it can be added to things like lemon juice without affecting its sweetness
  • it has a proven track record of safety in many research studies.


  • anecdotally (meaning personal stories) have tied intake to migraine headaches
  • may affect healthy bacteria in the gut, according to animal data
  • it may cause weight gain? 

This last one is a bit more controversial.  In a nutshell, one study using rats fed them different quantities of sucralose.  At the end of the 24 week study, the rats consuming sucralose gained weight compared to the ones that didn’t take any in.  And that’s the study this players agent was referring to.

Weird.  Zero calories, how can it cause dangerous belly fat to creep up on us?

I will say at this time I’m not impressed with the data showing artificial sweeteners cause us to gain belly fat … I clearly need to see more research to support this theory. The thought was that while artificial sweeteners themselves don’t have calories, they "trick" the body into craving more sweet foods…

…voila, belly fat and overall weight gain is through the roof.  

It’s correlation data, but if I remember anything from statistics, it’s that correlation doesn’t mean causation.  In a nutshell, the correlation that those who used diet soda weighed more doesn’t mean the diet soda itself caused them to gain weight.  More research clearly needs to expore this.  Keep in mind, also, that the doses used in this particular study were very high if we tried to extrapolate these findings to humans.  At this point I just don’t buy into that conclusions of this data and am surely calling for more.  That’s what I said to this players agent.

Again, another red flag for me here is that the "maximum" recommendation is 6 cans of diet cola — for some, that’s a ton, but for others, that’s breakfast.  Regulate your intake!

By the way, the agent and I never did come to an agreement — I’m still 100% confident that to have a person switch from 1-2L of regular soda each day (what this player drank) to diet soda is a huge positive step.  Perfect?  Nope.  Better.  Absolutely. 

Aspartame (Nutrasweet, Equal):

You’ve seen the little pink packets … pink packets of poison, according to some.  Like the others, this has the stamp of approval from the FDA.  But opponents of this suggest it causes migraines, causes cancer,brain tumors, and evil belly fat.

Like the others, the research is mixed — some studies show a negative effect, others show a positive effect.  

I hate to give the "more research is necessary" answer, but, well, it’s the best answer to give.

I talked about my feelings on the weight gain and artificial sweeteners with sucralose.

As for cancer — it’s a hard one to pin down.  These data are all done in animals, usually given very high doses, to see what happens.  

For some reason the review boards look very unfavorably at loading up humans with artificial sweeteners and seeing if they cause cancer (please read that with the intended sarcasm); therefore, we’re reliant on animal data.  But even if there is that chance, that concerns me … stamp of approval or not!

Like I mentioned in another blog about sugar and high fructose corn syrup, I don’t like the idea of artificial … I don’t want artificial ingredients in my body and try to limit them as much as possible.  I do that by knowing what I’m eating, being able to pronounce all ingredients, and eating foods as close to the earth as possible. 

With that said, I AM supportive of making the transition to calorie free drinks if someone is a regular soft drink (or juice, or sweetened tea) drinker

But as a whole, artificial sweeteners aren’t a favorite.  

We also have yet to find one without an off flavor.  Call us crazy, but we want to eat a food that, well, tastes like food — not have some bitter aftertaste that’s CLOSE to being real, but not quite there.

I’d personally rather have a REAL sweetener, infrequently.  Moderation.  That’s a very unsexy word in marketing and the media, but it’s true. 

You want a cookie? 

Eat a cookie — occasionally. 

Is a fat free, sugar free, calorie free flavored chocolate chunk piece of cardboard REALLY going to help out your desire for a cookie? 

Not a chance. 

Eat the real thing, on occasion, then get over it.  Fair enough?

Eating real foods is what will help you live as healthfully as possible, burn belly fat, and look and feel great!


Can you Lose Belly Fat if you Eat THIS?

There are over 30 names for sugar…

…turbinado sugar, raw sugar, agave syrup, fruit paste, raw honey, malt syrup and many more.

Of course we have our organic sugars too.  Are these any better if we’re trying to lose weight?  Ray from train2befit asked a question on the blog about the healthiest sugar options.

Is there such a thing?  A "healthy" sugar?
Clearly, when burning belly fat is a goal, sugar (all forms) need to take a back seat.  But let’s put a few of these under the microscope to see if there’s a best of the worst.  Afterall, with teens eating nearly 100 lbs of sugar per person, per year, we have some headway to make.  It should be no surprise that research shows belly fat has skyrocketed in this age group.

But adults aren’t much behind.  And the obesity epidemic we’re facing around the world is a tell tale sign that we’re overfed, yet undernourished. 

Let’s get to the good stuff.

First, just because something is organic, doesn’t mean it’s healthy.  Organic sugar isn’t a magical health food like it’s often considered.  It increases belly fat just like plain old table sugar.

Let’s cover a few of the most commonly questioned poisins in the fight against belly fat.

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)

This one was invented in the 1970′s.  It’s in nearly every food and beverage in the super market — from breads to ketchup, fruit juice to cereals.  Some have claimed it’s caused obesity saying, this one sweetener is preventing us from losing belly fat permanently.  Interestingly, its use has skyrocketed the same way the obesity epidemic has over the last few decades.  And research has suggested there is a correlation.  This caused a negative spiral of media ads pointing the finger at this one ingredient.

And the Corn Refiners Association fought back.  They created commercials saying that HFCS is no worse than sugar.  What they didn’t say is both are junk, why eat them at all?

My first "problem’ with HFCS is that it was "invented."  I don’t want to eat anything that was "invented." I want to eat foods as close to the ground as possible.  You can avoid HFCS, just like you can avoid other sugars.  Sure, it is metabolized a bit differently than sugar, but you know what, the foods that are loaded with HFCS are junk — regardless of the form of sugar.  Soda = junk.  Fruit juice cocktails = junk. Popsicles = junk.  If you buy organic options of these same foods, they’re all junk and will prevent you from losing belly fat, put a halt to losing fat from your hips and thighs, or getting into your skinny jeans.  

Agave Syrup

This natural sweetener recently became popular.  Agave nectar is produced from a plant and is popular in organic markets and with vegans.  It is touted for its low glycemic index, meaning it won’t cause much of a spike in blood sugar.  But no studies are available showing how it compares to other sugars in terms of blood sugar control.  It is primarily made up of fructose, which is in fact lower on the glycemic index.  One important note – if you try this, look for USDA-certified organic products. Most agave comes from Mexico and there have been issues with recalls because of excessive pesticides in the products. 

Raw Honey

Often sold at Farmer’s Markets, supporters of this sweetener love that it’s not processed.  Me too.  And because it’s not processed, it IS higher in a few nutrients (mainly B vitamins).  With that said, honey wouldn’t be my first choice for getting in any vitamins and minerals.  I DO like that you can use less of it than table sugar because teaspoon for teaspoon, it’s sweeter.  There’s also some very interesting data showing eating local honey may reduce allergies, it can be used as an anticeptic, and much more.  (NOTE: I don’t recommend pouring it on an open wound).

But in the end, will too much honey prevent you from getting the body of your dreams and slashing belly fat?  Sure, it’s still empty calories when you compare it side by side with fruit, for example (which also is high in a form of sugar, but nothing I’d worry about).

Where does that leave us?

All sugars have relatively the same number of calories per gram.

Organic sugars will still prevent you from losing belly fat.  Non organic sugars will prevent you from losing belly fat. 

If you are going to use a sweetener, opt for local honey and use it sparingly.  Still, the best way to eat foods is in their natural state — fruit is sweet, enjoy that as dessert.  Grill it to bring out the sweetness.  Add balsamic vinegar to a pan and heat it up to create a calorie free "syrup" that’s great with fruit. Avoid foods with ingredients that have been "invented" — the closer to the ground they are, the better off you will be.

In the end, burn belly fat by eating foods with few ingredients and training right.

What do you think?  Leave your thoughts in the comment section.


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