For most people, the flavor of sweetness is something they cannot resist. Studies have shown that intense sweetness even surpases an addiction to cocaine (1). Our current food system is packed full of added sugars.
If you start paying close attention to food labels, you will find an excessive amount of unnecessary added sugar in everything from salad dressings to barbecue sauce to flavored yogurt to sports drinks. It’s very easy to over-consume sugar.
We know that added sugars cause weight gain, raise blood sugars, and increase risk of chronic diseases. Because of this, many people turn to using artificial sweeteners. The best of both worlds, right? Sweet flavor without all the calories….
But are artificial sweeteners actually good for us?
Artificial sweeteners (also referred to as sugar substitutes) are non-caloric or low-caloric food additives that provide a sweet taste. Most are synthetically produced.
Six artificial sweeteners are approved for use in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA): aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, acesulfame potassium, neotame, and advantame. Two plant-based sweeteners are also gaining popularity - stevia and monk fruit. The FDA has issued “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS) status for all six artificial sweeteners as well as the two plant-based sweeteners (2).
Artificial sweeteners are hundreds to thousands of times sweeter than actual sugar. Many diabetic meal plans include sugar substitutes and diet soda is the chronic dieter’s best friend. But the research is starting to show that artificial sweeteners might not be an innocent as most people think.
A study conducted in 2009 found that people who drank diet soda every day had an 67% increased risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes and a 36% increased risk of metabolic syndrome (3). Another study in 2017 study showed that higher consumption of artificial sweeteners over six months actually lead to weight gain (4). Research is also starting to show that artificial sweeteners alter the gut microbiome and contribute to glucose intolerance (5).
The bottomline is that you want to limit or avoid artificial sweeteners as much as possible. While more research is still needed, studies are starting to show that there may be adverse effects from consuming artificial sweeteners on a regular basis. The overall health of our nation is proof that artificial sweeteners are not the answer or part of the cure to the obesity crisis (6). If you are going to use sugar substitutes, don’t give yourself free rein to eat as much as you like, monitor your portions and intake. Choose more natural sweeteners like stevia or try using sugar alcohols.