Paleo Power: How Real Food Beats Fake Fixes for Weight Loss

Food companies invest a great deal in marketing their low-calorie and no-calorie products as the key to better health. However, research has shown that some of these products, including artificial sweeteners, can lead to detrimental effects on our metabolism and even cause serious harm.

The Unhealthy Side of Artificial Sweeteners

For several decades, food manufacturers and soft drink companies have launched advertising campaigns to make consumers aware of the benefits of artificial sweeteners like aspartame and saccharin. Many people are drawn to the idea of enjoying the sweet taste of sugar without the associated weight gain and health issues connected to consuming refined carbohydrates.

But the reality of how these ingredients affect our bodies is far more complex than we might think. Rather than helping us lose weight, studies have shown that artificial sweeteners can cause weight gain instead.

How Artificial Sweeteners Can Lead to Weight Gain

According to laboratory tests conducted at Purdue University’s Ingestive Behavior Research Center, consumption of artificial sweeteners can make you more likely to consume more calories each day and, in return, gain extra weight and develop more body fat. The tests showed that lab animals eating food containing artificial sweeteners consumed more calories, gained more weight, and generated more body fat than those fed with regular sugar.

Another interesting find of the study was that when artificial sweeteners enter the digestive tract, they cause smaller increases in core body temperature compared to sugar, which means they don’t increase the metabolic rate (and calorie-burning) the way normal carbohydrates do.

The researchers concluded that consuming foods sweetened with no-calorie saccharin can lead to greater weight gain and the production of more body fat than consuming the same food sweetened with higher-calorie sugar.

The Problem with Fat Substitutes

Fat substitutes found in low-calorie, low-fat foods can produce similar negative effects to artificial sweeteners. To recreate the taste of fat while reducing the calorie count, food manufacturers often add lab-created gums and other substances. When the Purdue scientists tested fat substitutes on lab animals, they discovered that they disrupted the metabolism in ways that also led to weight gain.

The researcher, Susan E. Swithers, explains that these fat substitutes are intended to mimic the taste of fat in typically high-fat foods while providing fewer calories. Yet, they might end up confusing the body.

The Benefits of the Paleo Diet

In contrast, the paleo diet can help people lose weight. This is achieved by consuming fresh fruits, vegetables, organic meats, and fish. Excluding processed foods and grains from the diet aims to boost metabolism and increase the burning of calories. When combined with exercise, the paleo diet results may create brown fat, an active fat that burns calories rather than just storing them.

The real foods found in the paleo diet allows the body to store less fat, leading to weight loss. In comparison, artificially-created low-calorie foods often don’t lead to weight loss and may even result in the opposite.

As the Purdue study concludes, simply substituting a part of your diet with a similar-tasting item containing fewer or zero calories might not be an effective approach to weight loss. Taste usually alerts the body to expect calories, and when these calories aren’t present, the systems can become ineffective—one of the body’s mechanisms to control food intake fails.

To achieve the best taste and results for your metabolism, it is best to stick to the paleo diet and focus on consuming real, whole foods.