The Truth Behind Artificial Sweeteners

Do you need a latte to get you going in the morning? How about that mid-morning soda? Mid-afternoon energy drink? I sure hope not but for many that’s life.

What if you replace all those things with sucralose in your coffee? How about a Diet Cola instead of regular? That’s better?


You probably know the negative health effects of eating too much sugar, especially “added sugars” like in soda pop, candy, baked goods, and many commercially-available kinds of cereal, just to name a few.  Added sugar is hiding just about everywhere in the grocery store.

Did you know even things like ketchup and BBQ sauce have added sugar in them? You LITERALLY can’t get away from it!

Ingesting refined sugar spikes your blood sugar and insulin, and increases your risk for a whole host of issues. And yet, it’s being added to so many products!

A while ago, one of the food industry’s responses to the demand for lower-calorie foods that still taste great, was artificial sweeteners or “no sugar sweeteners”. 

The theory sounds nice, but…

Give up nothing, still get the sweet taste you’ve been programmed to crave. Oh and double bonus, no calories; like when you have a “diet pop” versus a regular one. Theoretically, this was going to help people maintain a healthy body weight, and hopefully decrease anyone’s risk of heart disease, diabetes, or obesity.

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

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Artificial Sweeteners 101

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’re also known as “no sugar sweeteners,” and include things like:

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

Health Effects

Negative health effects from artificial sweeteners are cited all over the place, and while many studies show effects, others don’t. Cancer? Maybe yes, maybe no. Heart disease? Maybe yes, maybe no. Not to mention that much of the research has been on animals, which may or may not translate to people. I mean, I feel like I’m in the rat race but I’m NOT a rat!

I did want to point out one ironic thing to do with artificial sweeteners and weight. One study found that people who tend to drink diet sodas have double the risk of gaining weight than those who didn’t.

Um, double the risk? I used to think “Diet” should be making me lose weight not double my risk of gaining it!

Another study has shown an increased risk for metabolic syndrome and diabetes for those who consume diet drinks every day.

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

What You Need to Know

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 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 veggies taste terrible?
  • Maybe artificial sweeteners increase our cravings for more (real) sweets?
  • It can be 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.
  • Maybe there is even a more complex response that involves our gut microbes and how they help to regulate our blood sugar levels.

Understand that added sugar is not good for you, but the solution may not be to replace them all with artificial sweeteners. They may be just as bad or worse for you!

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.  We’ve all been there, right? The more you eat the more you crave! Or is that just me?

Don’t replace it with artificial sweeteners. Instead of reducing your sugar cravings, they may actually make it worse.

Your body will thank you!

How do you feel about artificial sweeteners?


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