The belief that artificial sweeteners (AS) prevent weight gain is a common misconception. We consume foods and beverages advertised as diet and sugar-free so we will not end up with the calories that sugary foods give us, and yet correlational studies show that AS can actually contribute to weight gain. While alarming, it is hard to accept such a dangerous idea when there is no access to raw experimental data. To further study the roots of this controversial phenomenon, Suez et al. tracked the long-term weight of mice that consumed water or popular AS. The results help inform that while some AS are connected to a normal maintenance of weight, others cause weight gain.
Juxtaposed with mice who drank plain water, mice that drank AS did not lose significant amounts of weight. This debunks the advertised idea that all AS prevent or decrease weight gain, as aspartame was correlated with it. Although this finding indicates that aspartame contributes to weight gain, whereas saccharin and sucralose suggest that they are actually causing weight loss in certain mice. The error bars for these AS make this idea less plausible, however. The bars equally extend above and below the average weight of the control, which suggests that they had a more neutral impact. AS are consumed to prevent weight gain from natural sugars, but not all AS are created equal. Saccharin and sucralose did not cause significant change, the weights connected to aspartame exceeded the average value.
If one wants to control their weight, they should not rely entirely on AS. Although saccharin and sucralose appeared to be relatively neutral in a diet, the data showed that aspartame is connected to weight gain. If this AS has adverse effects, it is safe to assume that many others also do, which begs the question as to why this weight gain is occurring without the calories.
*Suez, Jotham et al., Nature, vol. 514, no. 186, 2014