The Truth Behind Artificial Sweeteners

August 7, 2017
Lyndall McAlpine

You probably know the negative health effects of eating too much sugar, especially “added sugars” like in soft drinks, lollies, baked goods, and many commercially available cereals, just to name a few.  Added sugar is hiding just about everywhere in the grocery store.

Yes, ingesting refined sugar spikes your blood sugar and insulin, and increases your risk for a whole host of issues.

A while ago, one of the food industry’s responses to the demand for lower-calorie foods that still taste great, was artificial sweeteners. The idea behind them is that you can still get the sweetness, without the calories; like when you have a “diet soft drink” versus a regular one. Theoretically, this was going to help people maintain a healthy body weight, and hopefully not increase anyone’s risk of heart disease, diabetes, or obesity.

But, it doesn’t always work out the way we think it will…

Types of artificial sweeteners

Sugar substitutes fall into several categories, but what they all have in common is that they have a sweet taste and fewer calories than plain sugar.

Today we’ll specifically discuss “artificial sweeteners,” which are synthetic chemicals where a tiny bit tastes very sweet. They include things like:

  • Saccharin (Sweet & Low),
  • Acesulfame potassium,
  • Aspartame (Equal & NutraSweet), and
  • Sucralose (Splenda)

Health effects of artificial sweeteners

Negative health effects from artificial sweeteners are cited all over the place, many studies showing effects such as cancer and heart disease. However, we need to bare in mind much of the research has been on animals, which may or may not translate to people.

Here is an interesting fact: Splenda was actually discovered in a chemistry lab while attempting to create new insecticides. It was accidentally discovered to be surprisingly sweet and was soon marketed as Splenda. Sucralose’s chemical structure is the same found in swimming pools & consuming it actually delivers this chlorine directly to cells. It’s classified as an organochlorine just like banned DDT, Aldrin (pesticide), PCBs, chloroform, & phosgene.

I did want to point out one ironic thing to do with artificial sweeteners and weight. There is increasing scientific evidence shown from human studies that these sweeteners:

  • Promote metabolic dysfunction, one study showing an increased risk for metabolic syndrome and diabetes for those who consume diet drinks daily
  • Increase weight, one study found that people who tend to drink diet sodas have double the risk of gaining weight than those who didn’t.
  • May effect the microbiome composition and functionThis study and this study  found artificial sweeteners caused significant reductions in gut flora.

While these results may not apply equally to everyone, they do somehow seem ironic, don’t they?

How do artificial sweeteners affect our weight?

Now that’s a million-dollar question! There are so many ideas out there to try to explain it, but the reality is we don’t know for sure; plus, it might play out differently in different people.

  • Is it simply because people feel that they can eat cake because they’ve switched to diet soda?
  • Perhaps it’s because the sweeteners change the taste preferences so that fruit starts to taste worse, and vegies taste terrible?
  • Maybe artificial sweeteners increase our cravings for more (real) sweets?
  • It has been suggested that the sweet taste of these sweeteners signals to our body to release insulin to lower our blood sugar; but, because we didn’t actually ingest sugar, our blood sugar levels get too low, to the point where we get sugar cravings.
  • Some even say (and at least one animal study suggests) that saccharin may inspire addictive tendencies toward it.
  • Lots of studies are coming out showing there is a more complex response that involves the interference to our gut microbes and how they help to regulate our blood sugar levels.

Conclusion:

Understand that added sugar is not good for you, but the solution may not be to replace them with artificial sweeteners.

What can you do?

I highly recommend reducing your sugar intake, so you naturally re-train your palate and start enjoying the taste of real food that isn’t overly sweet.  This way you’re reducing your intake of added sugar, as well as not needing to replace it with artificial sweeteners.

  • Try having ½ teaspoon less sugar in your cuppa.
  • Try reducing a ¼ or more cup of the sugar called for in some recipes.
  • Try diluting fruit juice/sweet drinks with water until you no longer need juice…. water is always best!l
  • If you really must use sweeteners try stevia in its natural leaf form either fresh or dried, but again gradually reduce your amounts until your taste buds no longer need the sweetness

Not that easy by yourself?

Would you like some help to reduce your sweet cravings? I have created a Free 5 Day Program you can follow to help you cut or at least reduce your cravings.

You can either do this on your own at any time or join in my Group Challenge starting 21st August, we’ll have a Private Facebook group to help motivate and support you through your transformation.

Click here to find out more

References:

http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/32/4/688

http://www.cmaj.ca/content/189/28/E929

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4615743/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18535548/ 

http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/artificial-sweeteners-sugar-free-but-at-what-cost-201207165030

https://authoritynutrition.com/artificial-sweeteners-blood-sugar-insulin/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/research-review-splenda-is-it-safe

https://chriskresser.com/the-unbiased-truth-about-artificial-sweeteners/