Is “artificial” the opposite of “all-natural?” If so, I’m reminded of my artificial past… When after years (and years!) consuming diet sodas and other beverages and foods containing artificial sweeteners (and other potentially dangerous additives and chemicals), I finally cut all of these substances out of my diet – all about the same time I learned to Just Stop Eating So Much! and to eat healthier, fresher and purer.

It’s no wonder that up until this breakthrough I felt compelled to induce these chemically laced “food” products. After all, I was taught that the way to lose weight was to reduce calories through any means – including by consuming substances that my body didn’t necessarily know how to process (or even properly metabolize). After learning to pay more attention to the food and beverages I was downing as well as how I felt after doing so, I realized that a 16-calorie teaspoon of real, all-natural sugar left me feeling better than a packet of no-calorie whatever-it-might-be. And since that wakeup call, numerous scientists and studies have been continually proving why chemically altered foods aren’t necessarily even being registered as ‘foods’ by our bodies.

Hopefully we can all agree that one of the nourishing paths to a healthy weight and body (inside is out) is one that utilizes pure, natural foods. This means as little salt/sodium as possible and absolutely no added chemicals or preservatives. And as many of you are also learning through the pink slime situation, food labels cannot always be trusted. In fact, the FDA allows food makers to be very “creative” when listing ingredients. (For example, did you know that the pink color in Yoplait’s Strawberry Yogurt comes from crushed female cochineal beetles and their eggs? Try checking for that on the label!)

As for artificial sweeteners (something many consume daily without any thought), series of news articles site findings by Purdue University Scientists who studied rats that were fed food with artificial sweetener saccharin and rats fed food with glucose, a natural sugar.

The results of the study showed that in comparison to rats given yogurt sweetened with glucose, the rats that consumed yogurt sweetened with saccharin went onto consume many more calories and put on more weight and, as a result, body fat.

These researchers determined that sweet foods may prompt the body to get ready to take in a lot of calories, but that when the sweetness in the form of artificial sweeteners is not followed by a large amount of calories, the body’s internal system becomes disoriented, which might then lead to eating more, while expanding less energy than normal.

Said Purdue researchers Susan Swithers and Terry Davidson in the journal Behavioral Neuroscience, published by the American Psychological Association: “The data clearly indicate that consuming a food sweetened with no-calorie saccharin can lead to greater body-weight gain and adiposity than would consuming the same food sweetened with high-calorie sugar.” Furthermore, they went onto state: “Such an outcome may seem counterintuitive, if not an anathema, to human clinical researchers and health care practitioners who have long recommended the use of low- and no-calorie sweeteners as a means of weight control.”

The researchers also confirmed that additional artificial sweeteners such as aspartame that also taste sweet but do not lead to the delivery of calories may have similar effects. “Animals may use sweet taste to predict the caloric contents of food. Eating sweet non-caloric substances may degrade this predictive relationship.”

“With the growing use of non-caloric sweeteners in the current food environment, millions of people are being exposed to sweet tastes that are not associated with caloric or nutritive consequences,” noted the researchers. This research has been part of studies to examine the question of whether artificial sweeteners – used in an incredible number of today’s foods and beverages – actually assist or hinder people who are trying to lose weight.

Whether or not the findings in the rats translate to similar findings in humans remains to be seen. But one aspect of all these studies seems to be true: the less pure and the more chemically enhanced certain foods are, the less likely our internal system is to recognize and, therefore, be able to process them – thereby slowing down our metabolism. (To say nothing of wondering how these chemicals might be adversely affecting our overall health.)

You read it time and time again on this blog: Keep it pure. Keep it simple. And as your taste buds become less reliant on these chemical and man-made additives, you’ll find that you enjoy the flavors of pure and natural food more and more. To say nothing of the benefit they bring to your overall health and well-being!

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