On one hand, you have the people that are opposed to the use of artificial sweeteners because of the link with increased health risk and other diseases. But on the other hand, if you’ve ever tried to reduce your sugar intake or lose weight by reducing the amount of calories in your diet, there’s no getting around it : you’ve probably turned to artificial sweeteners.
You can find these clever substances in a variety of food and beverages.
Marketed as “sugar-free” or “diet” chewing gums, soft drinks, baked goods, candy, ice cream, yogurt and even medication often contain artificial sweeteners.
There’s way too much research out there to cover comprehensively in a blog article, but I’ll try to cover the basics.
Here’s a chart that list some of the popular sugar substitutes by Mayo Clinic Medical Research:
|Artificial sweeteners||Sugar alcohols||Novel sweeteners||Natural sweeteners|
|Acesulfame potassium (Sweet One)||Erythritol||Stevia extracts (Pure Via, Truvia)||Agave nectar|
|Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet)||Hydrogenated starch hydrolysate||Tagatose (Naturlose)||Date sugar|
|Neotame||Isomalt||Trehalose||Fruit juice concentrate|
|Saccharin (SugarTwin, Sweet’N Low)||Lactitol||Honey|
|Sucralose (Splenda)||Maltitol||Maple syrup|
The topic of sweeteners can be confusing and have been heavily scrutinized over the years.
What are they exactly?
Artificial sweeteners are synthetic sugar substitutes known as intense sweeteners.
They’re many times sweeter than regular sugar and are an attractive alternatives to sugar because they add virtually no calories to your diet.
Health benefits of artificial sweeteners
- Don’t contribute to tooth decay and cavities
- Weight control; they are non-nutritive – they have virtually no calories.
- Diabetes ; artificial sweeteners have no immediate, measurable effect on blood sugar level because they are not carbohydrates
Health concerns with artificial sweeteners
- Laxative effect, bloating, intestinal gas and diarrhea when eaten in large amounts
- Lab created, some people don’t like the thought of putting chemicals into their bodies
- May have an impact on what you want to eat. There’s link between cravings and artificial sweeteners.
- Taste. Some people just don’t like the taste of artificial sweeteners
- May trigger headache pain or make users feel more tired
- Recent research has revealed that artificial sweeteners may influence your health by changing the balance of bacteria in your gut.
Artificial sweeteners causes cancer
Studies dating from 1970s found a link between saccharin and bladder cancer in laboratory rats. Because of those studies, saccharin once carried a warning label that it may be hazardous to your health. The mechanism behind these effects was later found to be specific to rats and not generalizable to other animals or humans.
A later study suggested that aspartame consumption caused brain tumors. The authors based this hypothesis on the fact that both brain cancer and aspartame consumption had increased since 1980 … despite not knowing whether the people getting brain tumors actually consumed artificial sweeteners.
However, these studies gave artificial sweeteners a bad reputation. Thanks to the media that tends to blow things way out of proportion, they never recovered.
Eating artificial sweeteners guarantees I’ll lose weight
For most people, the desire to reduce calorie consumption and lose weight is the primary motivation for consuming artificial sweeteners. While this is still being researched, some believe that diet food causes your brain to crave calories, leaving you eating more instead of less. This has something to do with tricking the activity in the reward processing regions of the brain. There can also be a “halo effect.” Many people think that because they are eating foods that are low in calories that leaves room to eat more. “The calories you save by drinking diet soda don’t counter-balance a high-calorie meal,”
Sweeteners that are derived from stevia are the best choice
Raw stevia is not the same as the stevia-based products you buy at your local Sobeys. These are often bleached, added with fillers and end up being highly altered version of stevia (different on a molecular level).
Also, Stevia is not FDA-approved. It can’t be sold as an artificial sweetner but only as a dietary supplement.
- Artificial sweeteners have been linked to a number of health conditions. However, the evidence are observational and doesn’t take other potential causes into account.
- Swapping added sugar for artificial sweeteners may help people who are trying to lose weight, manage diabetes and improve their dental health
- The short-term use of artificial sweeteners hasn’t been shown to be harmful.
Should I consume sweeteners?
My conclusion might seem a little anticlimactic after all that information, but my goal here is to help you make an informed choice.
Sweeteners are new to the human diet and my moto is “guilty until proven innocent” so personally i try to avoid them.
If you don’t need to watch your calories or your blood sugar levels, there is no real reason to use the sweeteners unless you just happen to like the taste . While artificial sweeteners are perhaps not as scary as some might believe, I don’t recommend including them in your diet just for fun.