Are artificial sweeteners really a better choice?

Firstly I need to state that before I explain why artificial sweeteners may not be the better choice, I need to apologise. I (as many of us did) at some point believed the hyped BS behind artificial sweeteners due to false marketing and was blinded by the calorie free alternative which sugar coated it’s real affects. I used to promote and use Splenda for all kinds of purposes, mainly coffee and protein based type baking.

What are artificial sweeteners?

Well they are basically sugar substitutes that are synthetically manufactured in a Laboratory. They have become increasingly popular due to people looking to eliminate sugar from their diets in an attempt to lose weight and ironically be healthier. Almost all are calorie-free and taste much sweeter than regular sugar. The FDA has approved five artificial sweeteners: saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame and sucralose. How the human body responds to these sweeteners is only now really coming to light. Lets look at these approved sweeteners in more detail.

Saccharin

Saccharin is 300 times sweeter than sugar and is one of the oldest artificial sweeteners that was once listed on the National Toxicology Program’s list of potential carcinogens. Despite its removal this doesn’t mean its safe and common side effects include allergic reactions that can lead to headache, difficulty breathing, skin rash and upset stomach.

Acesulfame Potassium

Acesulfame Potassium is an artificial sweetener, which is 250 times sweeter than sugar and contains methylene chloride. Methylene chloride is a well known carcinogen and can cause headaches, depression, nausea, mental confusion, liver & kidney disorders and visual disturbances.

Aspartame

Aspartame is one of the more common artificial sweeteners and is 350 times sweeter than sugar. It has been associated with symptoms, which include headache, dizziness, change in mood, vomiting or nausea, abdominal pain and cramps, change in vision, diarrhea, seizures/ convulsions, memory loss, and fatigue. As if this wasn’t enough other symptoms may include: fibromyalgia symptoms, spasms, shooting pains, numbness in your legs, cramps, tinnitus, joint pain, unexplainable depression, anxiety attacks, slurred speech, blurred vision, multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus and various cancers.

Neotame

Neotame is 13,000 times sweeter than sugar yes 13,000 times. It is composed of aspartame and dimethylbutyl, which means that it can cause similar effects above. Enough said I think.

Sucralose

Sucralose is the most common of all and is marketed to be just like sugar, this one is 600 times sweeter than sugar. Sucralose is made by treating sugar with chlorine. What? Yes chlorine—a carcinogen that is included in many pesticides and household cleaning agents. In fact, sucralose was discovered by accident when trying to develop a new insecticide. Negative effects of this product include gastrointestinal problems, skin irritation, wheezing, coughing, chest pains, mood swings, anger, itchy eyes and lots of others.

So if all this isn’t enough to make you rethink it’s use, read on…

Studies show that people who consume large quantities of artificial sweeteners while dieting, end up eating more. Recent evidence now suggests that this is because it does not activate the food reward pathways in the same fashion as natural sweeteners do. So that sweet taste, regardless of its calorie content, enhances your appetite.

Surprisingly glucose or table sugar, tends to lead to lower food consumption compared to non-calorie artificial sweeteners because the calories contained in natural sweeteners trigger biological responses to keep your overall energy consumption constant.

Another artificial sweetener myth is that if you are trying to lower blood sugar, artificial sweeteners can be helpful, making it a good alternative to avoid the onset of diabetes.

Some artificial sweeteners especially aspartame are now known to rapidly stimulate the release of insulin and also leptin. These two hormones are involved with fat storage and help regulate your metabolism. So although you’re not consuming those excess calories you could still be raising your insulin (blood sugar) levels. Leading to obesity and diabetes, the two main reasons why were we using a sweetener in the first place. Go figure.

So what we could be viewing as helpful to our overall health and desired bodies, which we used to help curb sugar cravings, can now actually be more harmful than first thought and have a reversed affect.

So Sugar is not looking that bad after all now is it?

I’m not saying that but the main point here to consider is that we should be educating ourselves more with regards to the things we put into our bodies. Clearly we can’t trust the government to make those decisions for us and we can’t allow to be tempted by false marketing. The old saying “if its too good to be true it usually is” stands in good stead here.

All this being said it is virtually impossible for us to avoid all artificial sweeteners. So as with everything in life, take in moderation but where possible I would be looking to use more natural based products.

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