If you’ve opened up a webpage any time in the past 20 years, you’re likely aware of all the controversies surrounding our foods. In an age where everything is “harmful” to our bodies and causes weight gain, how can we possibly stay healthy? Rumors of so-called “appetite-increasing” foods (basically, foods that some say will make you hungrier) have been circulating for a while now. Let’s take a closer look at some these rumors and see if they are supported by science.
Some media reports have (falsely) linked low-calorie sweeteners to several health risks, from diabetes to cancer to inability to regulate appetite. In reality, there is extremely limited and conflicting evidence to suggest any of this. Current research actually supports the use of low-calorie sweeteners (LCSs) in place of sugar-sweetened foods and beverages for improved weight management. Two separate clinical interventions published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition both found that participants who replaced sugar with LCSs significantly decreased calorie intake. Researchers also observed that those in the LCS groups experienced decreased feelings of hunger and weighed less compared to the sugar-consuming groups at the end of the studies.
Similarly to artificial sweeteners, monosodium glutamate (MSG) is another food ingredient that often falls victim to unscientific misperceptions. MSG, which is found naturally in many foods including tomatoes and mushrooms, was first discovered by scientists in 1909. The compound has been rigorously tested for over a century with no conclusive evidence or links established between consumption and health risks. The previously linked Huffington Post article states that MSG causes weight gain by damaging the appetite-regulatory abilities of the hypothalamus, but fails to mention that the only detrimental effects were found in neonatal rats injected with physiologically impossible doses of MSG at 4mg/g of body weight. Even humans who have consumed 10g bolus doses of MSG (dozens to hundreds of times more concentrated than what you would normally find in food) experienced no ill side effects, least of all damaged hypothalamus glands and increased appetite.
While it may be easy to scapegoat certain foods or food ingredients as the cause of our love handles, the truth about weight management is that you get out what you put in (literally!). If you consume more calories than you burn, you will gain weight, and vice versa. Creating a balanced diet is simply about expanding the variety of your food choices to include a healthy dose of nutritious foods (like grains, lean proteins, healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables) each day and practicing moderation.
So think twice next time you hear tale of so-called “appetite-increasing” foods. In the age of technology where anything can be digitally disseminated to all corners of the world, it becomes imperative to fact-check everything you read with reputable sources in order to avoid falling victim to misinformation.