If you are one to load up on the ‘sugar-free’, calorie-free’ diet soft drinks to help you lose weight, you need to stop and think about what you are really putting into your body.

I’ll admit artificial sweeteners are a very attractive concept; you can satisfy your sweet tooth without breaking your calorie bank for the day. But, we often forget that our bodies are smarter than we think.

Artificial sweeteners (usually in the form of saccharin, aspartame, or sucralose) stimulate the taste receptors that sense sweetness in your tongue and stomach. This sends signals to your brain to anticipate food, more specifically to anticipate calories. When our bodies do not receive these calories your hunger signals are instantly switched on and insulin production increases, leading you to overcompensate on food in your next meal and the high insulin levels means you will store the food you eat in subsequent meals as fat. Over time this mismatch of taste receptors and calorie intake actually leads to weight gain, exactly what you don’t want when you make the choice to eat artificial sweeteners.

There is also recent evidence to suggest that artificial sweeteners affect the type and number of the gut bacteria that direct metabolism. When artificial sweeteners are consumed, more bacteria which store the food we take in as fat are formed, and there is less of the bacteria we want which burns the food we eat and converts it into energy.

All in all, artificial sweeteners will hinder your weight loss and health goals rather than promote them. They encourage further sugar dependence, and focusing on cutting out refined sugar and increasing whole foods instead is a much better way of complementing your weight loss journey.