GMAT : Analysis of An Argument

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An Argument

7. The following appeared in the health section of a magazine on trends and lifestyles.

People who use the artificial sweetener aspartame are better off consuming sugar, since aspartame can actually contribute to weight gain rather than weight loss. For example, high levels of aspartame have been shown to trigger a craving for food by depleting the brain of a chemical that registers satiety or the since of being full. Furthermore, studies suggest that sugars, if consumed after at least 45 minutes of continuous exercise, actually enhance the body's ability to burn fat. Consequently, those who drink aspartame-sweetened juices after exercise will also lose this caloric-burning benefit. Thus it appears that people consuming aspartame rather than sugar are unlikely to achieve their dietary goals.


Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument. In your discussion be sure to analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument. For example, you may need to consider what questionable assumptions underline the thinking and what alternative explanations or counterexamples might weaken the conclusion. You can also discuss what sort of evidence would strengthen or refute the argument, what changes in the argument would make it more logically sound and what, if anything, would help you better evaluate in conclusion.


In this argument the author concludes that people trying to lose weight are better off consuming sugar than the artificial sweetener aspartame.

In support of this conclusion the author argues that aspartame can cause weight gain by triggering food cravings, whereas sugar actually enhances the body's ability to burn fat.

Neither of these reasons provides sufficient support for the conclusion.

The first reason - that aspartame encourages food cravings - is supported by research findings that high levels of aspartame deplete the brain chemical responsible for registering a sense of being sated or full. But the author's generalization based on this research is unreliable.

The research was based on a sample in which large amounts of aspartame were administered. However, the author applies the research findings to a target population that includes all aspartame users, many of whom would probably not consume high levels of the artificial sweetener.

The second reason - that sugar enhances the body's ability to burn fat - is based on studies in which experimental groups, whose members consumed sugar after at least 45 minutes of continuous exercise, showed increased rates of fat burning. The author's general claim, however, applies to all dieters who use sugar instead of aspartame, not just to those who use sugar after long periods of exercise. Once again, the author's generalization is unreliable because it is based on a sample that clearly does not represent all dieters.

In conclusion, each of the studies cited by the author bases its findings on evidence that does not represent dieters in general. For this reason, neither premise of this argument is a reliable generalization.

Consequently, I am not convinced that dieters are better off consuming sugar instead of aspartame.

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