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Science has found artificial sweeteners can make you put on weight -- and for a simple reason

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

If you think using an artificial sweetener helps keep your weight down, think again.

Artificial sweeteners combined with a low carbohydrate diet increases overall food consumed, according to a study published in the journal Cell Metabolism.

The finding expands on previous research that explained why artificial sweeteners increase feelings of hunger when consumed chronically.

The study, led by the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre and School of Life and Environmental Sciences, offered fruit flies diets with varying amounts of carbohydrate and sweeteners.

Flies that consumed artificial sweeteners alongside a low carbohydrate diet showed an immediate increase in food intake. This increase varied according to the dose of sweeteners.

A previous study reported that consumption of an artificial sweetener with a higher carbohydrate diet actually suppresses food intake and therefore may help reduce calories consumed.

However, these results were not reproduceable. Flies that were offered a higher carbohydrate diet and consumed higher doses of sweeteners did not reduce their food intake.

“Distorting the perceived energy value of food, by manipulating sweetness through artificial means, has unanticipated consequences in these animal studies,” says lead researcher Associate Professor Greg Neely from the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Science.

“Although originally considered benign, a growing body of research including our own makes clear a connection between artificial sweeteners, hunger and food intake.

“To fully understand the impact of artificial sweeteners on overall health, we require further systematic investigation of these effects on metabolism.”

Previous research by the University of Sydney team on flies and mice revealed chronic consumption of artificial sweeteners increase feelings of hunger due to a complex neuronal network that tells the animal it hasn’t eaten enough energy.

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