Americans are increasingly consuming artificial sweeteners, often with the expectation that Splenda, Equal, diet sodas and flavored waters are the perfect solution to their sweet tooth with little-to-no caloric aftermath. Yet, this country continues to pack on the pounds, as 75 percent of the population is overweight. Coincidence?

Artificial sweeteners are toxic, not just to the body, but to the metabolism as well. Many of the patients I have worked with to improve their overall health have found significant benefit in giving up these chemicals completely. Nearly all lose weight in the weeks following the change in addition to having improvement with headaches, heart palpitations and insomnia.

If my personal beliefs and clinical experience are not enough to sway you, take two recent studies on the topic into consideration. In the first, conducted at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, and published in Behavioral Neuroscience, doctors compared two groups of rats: One consuming yogurt sweetened with glucose and the other with artificial sweetener. The rats consuming the artificial sweetener were unable to regulate their intake, leading to greater weight gain and more body fat as they had a greater overall consumption of calories. It appears that by avoiding sugar and using the fake stuff, the body is not able to regulate hunger and appetite, which leads to increased consumption.

In Circulation, July 2007, a second study was published that observed soft drink consumption and the risk for the markers of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is currently the most worrisome lifestyle malady. It is defined by having at least three of the following: elevated triglycerides, abdominal obesity, insulin resistance, elevated blood pressure or low HDL. Metabolic syndrome makes you 3-4 times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease. The study showed that drinking one or more sodas a day increased the risk of obesity by 31 percent and the risk of metabolic syndrome by 44 percent! There was no difference in risk between diet and regular pop.

These two studies speak volumes to me, but I am already a believer in the dangers of artificial sweeteners. If you’re still on the fence, do your own study. Write down your weight and any symptoms you currently experience. Give up artificial sweeteners (Splenda, sucralose, aspartame and saccharin) completely for two full weeks, drinking water or fresh brewed, unsweetened tea instead. Document any changes or improvements you observe. I'm willing to bet the results will be oh so sweet.