As you get interested in natural weight loss, you may resort to diet soft drinks instead of regular soft drinks. This is because you understand that you are avoiding calories. But recent studies have shown that people who rely on diet soft drinks or artificially sweetened foods ultimately end up consuming more calories. This is because they lose the body's natural ability to correlate the caloric requirement of the body with the caloric intake. Let me explain.
The Drooling Dog Experiment
Russian scientist Pavlov once noticed that dogs drooled whenever it was time for food. He conducted an experiment and began by ringing a bell at food time. Once the dogs were used to this routine, they began to associate the ringing of the bell with food. Pavlov noticed that whenever he rang the bell, the dogs began to drool even when there was no food in sight. He called this response a "conditional reflex."
Studies have shown that just as dogs learned to associate the ringing of a bell with food, we humans have, since childhood, subconsciously learned to associate sweet tasting food and highly viscous foods with high calories. This ability helps us to naturally regulate the intake of calories, as the number of calories the body needs is gauged by this ability. We must retain this ability in order to bring about natural weight loss.
Artificial sweeteners are said to weaken this natural ability to correlate the amount of calories required by the body with the amount of sweet and viscous foods we eat. As a result out senses lose judgment as to how many calories we must consume in order to meet the caloric requirement of our body. This results in overeating and weight gain.
Sweetness as a Caloric Measurement
When we eat foods containing artificial sweeteners instead of real sugar, our bodies understand that although we are consuming something sweet, it does not contain any calories. So when we actually eat some sugar sweetened food, our body may subconsciously take for granted that there are no calories in it. This is the reason people overeat. The result is weight gain and obesity. This is because we lose the ability to gauge how many calories are contained in regular high calorie foods.
Texture as a Caloric Measurement
In the same way our bodies gauge the caloric content of food based on texture. High viscous foods are gauged as high calorie foods by our bodies. Now, there are many low viscosity beverages in the market which are actually high in calorie content, but our bodies may be tricked into thinking that since they are less viscous, they have low calorie content. This results in overeating and weight gain. So, a compromised gauging ability hinders natural weight loss.
The above-mentioned concept was explained by studies conducted by Davidson and Swithers, both experts in psychological sciences, who expanded on Pavlov's findings and applied it to human ability to gauge calories by taste and texture. They based their findings on experiments conducted on rats. Rats that were given artificial sweeteners developed an inconsistent association between sweet taste and caloric requirement. These rats therefore ate more than rats in the control group.
On the other hand, another similar experiment was conducted, but this time for viscosity. Rats that were given liquid food ate more that rats that were given semi solid food with the same calorie content.
How to Avoid the Artificial Sweetener Trap
Research is being conducted about whether we can consciously retrain our minds and bodies to measure the calories in food, in spite of using artificial sweeteners. Meanwhile, the best option we have as of now, is to educate ourselves about the calories we consume, and follow a particular exercise regime.