We’ve heard the news about sugar, have made our new year’s resolutions and are making all the necessary changes to cut it from our diets. Many of us are still craving the white stuff and are looking to satisfy our sweet tooth with artificial sweeteners. Touted as calorie free and containing zero grams of sugar, it seems like an ideal replacement for sugar. However, research is in and it turns out that artificial sweeteners are as bad as — if not worse than — sugar. According to Dr. Mark Hyman, craving sugar and refined carbs and having low energy is not a natural state of being human — it’s a sign we are out of balance. While there are several key recommendations in his book, The Blood Sugar Solution, perhaps the simplest is dropping sugar AND artificial sweeteners from your diet completely.

Dr. Hyman analyzed the data and the results are not looking good for diet drinks. “Those who consume diet drinks regularly have a 200 percent increased risk of weight gain, a 36 percent increased risk of pre-diabetes or metabolic syndrome, and a 67 percent increased risk of diabetes.” On top of that, those who consume as many as two diet drinks a day are prone to a waist circumference five times larger than those who do not drink diet drinks.

But perhaps the most shocking news: In a bizarre study involving rats and cocaine, it seems given the choice, the rats chose artificial sweeteners over cocaine. And these rats had been programmed to be addicted to cocaine. To quote the author of the study, “The absolute preference for the taste of sweetness may lead to a re-ordering in the hierarchy of potentially addictive stimuli, with sweetened diets taking precedence over cocaine and possibly other drugs of abuse.“

Bottom line: It’s time to give up artificial sweeteners like stevia, aspartame and xylitol. These dangerous and falsely-marketed “health products” are a surefire way to gain weight, slow down your metabolism and become an addict. Instead of using artificial sweeteners to supplement a sugar addiction, check out Liz’s tips for reducing — and eventually eliminating — your sugar intake for good here!

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