If anything’s too good to be true, it’s artificial sweeteners. While we love the idea of tasty products that can satisfy our sweet tooths without piling on both sugar and calories, there’s got to be a catch—and there is. In addition to being associated with weight gain and diabetes in the past, Yale University researchers have recently found that these additives are messing with metabolism as well. And if our list of 70 Most Popular Sodas Ranked By How Toxic They Are hasn’t convinced you to trash your diet soda yet, the results from this study sure will.
How The Study Was Set Up
It all began when Dana Small, neuroscientist and lead researcher, crafted five drinks of equal sucralose (aka Splenda) levels—what would taste the equivalent of 19 grams, or 75 calories, of sugar. Then, she varied the total number of calories per drink (ranging from 0 to 150 calories) by adding a tasteless carb called maltodextrin.
Although she assumed the highest-calorie drink would lead to the highest metabolic response, that wasn’t the case. The greatest response was found in participants who drank the beverage that fell right in the middle at 75 calories.
The Surprising Results
According to Small, this happened because the calorie count matched the drink’s taste. Since these two factors lined up, the body knew to metabolize the calories that had been consumed. On the other hand, when a mismatch occurred—like when drinking a lower or higher-cal drink with a moderately sweet taste—the body’s metabolism wasn’t triggered because the system didn’t know what was going on. As a result, Small suggests the excess calories are simply stored either in muscles, liver, or in fat.
"If sweeteners are disrupting how carbohydrates are being metabolized, then this could be an important mechanism behind the metabolic dysfunction we see in diets high in processed foods," explained Small to Vox.
What You Can Learn From It
Now that we know a food’s sweetness, not just its calorie levels, are determining your metabolic response, it’s clear that altering the way something tastes can make your metabolism wonky. But the solution is so simple. Let your food tastes how it naturally tastes so your body can naturally respond to it! Avoid any products with artificial sweeteners on the ingredients list, especially when it comes to sugar-free sodas and yogurts. We’ve got a list of Every Vanilla Flavor From 17 Yogurt Brands—Ranked! to help get you started.