Artificial Sweeteners

Why should I avoid artificial sweeteners?

A Answers (4)

  • AAshley Koff, RD, Nutrition & Dietetics, answered
    Artificial sweeteners (aspartame, saccharine, sucralose, acesulfame potassium, and cyclamate potassium) are hundreds to thousands of times sweeter than Mother Nature's sugar, and as such they can prevent you from feeling any sweet satisfaction from real food. If you get used to these little packets (or low-fat, sugar-free packaged goods that contain artificial sweeteners), suddenly fruit and sugar from our Mother doesn't taste so sweet. Studies prove that these sugars can trigger you to overeat.

    One Purdue study in particular found that even though these sweeteners don't contain calories, they cause weight gain in animals. The researchers speculate that the intense sweetness tricks the brain into thinking that calories are on their way when they aren't! The body gets confused, slows metabolism, and ramps up appetite. This imbalance in regulating calories leads to overeating.

    Also, artificial sweeteners are often found in combination with sugar alcohols such as maltitol, sorbitol, glycerol, xylitol, isomalt, and mannitol, among others. Sugar alcohols, which offer sweetness but do not get absorbed, are designed to replace table sugar. Because these molecules technically are not digested, they can linger in the digestive tract for a longer period of time and cause stomach upset in people with sensitive tummies or who consume excessive sugar alcohols.
  • AKate Geagan, Nutrition & Dietetics, answered
    Thousands of beverages, desserts, food products and online recipes that claim to be sugar-free still deliver an intensely sweet taste experience. These types of products are technically sugar-free but still lean on ingredients such as artificial sweeteners; all-natural, zero-calorie sweeteners (such as monk fruit or stevia); or sugar alcohols (malitol, sorbitol and erithyrol) to deliver their signature sweetness.

    The question is, did you bargain for that sweet surprise, or are you trying to pull back from sweet taste all together? While this is still an area of intense debate and research, many on the leading edge of functional medicine believe that these types of ingredients still drive an intensely sweet palate, and may still interact with our biology by changing insulin response, hunger and satiety hormones, the brain’s pleasure and reward centers and more.

    Whatever decision you make, it’s a reason to check the fine print (and the ingredient list) when you see the sugar-free claim on the label.

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  • Why should I avoid artificial sweeteners?

    You should avoid artificial sweeteners because they don't help you lose weight, and they may put you at risk for diabetes and heart disease. Watch functional medicine expert Elizabeth Boham, MD, explain why you should stay away from these products.  

  • ARose Reisman, Nutrition & Dietetics, answered
    Excess sugar is responsible for weight gain that can lead to diabetes, heart disease and stroke. To avoid the negative effects of too much sugar, many have turned to artificial sweeteners. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved both aspartame and saccharine. However, both sweeteners can cause side effects. I don't believe in making these sweeteners part of your daily diet. You'll never lose weight by consuming diet drinks or coffee sweeteners.

    These sweeteners can do two harmful things. They may fool you into thinking that since you've avoided extra calories from sugar you can have extra calories somewhere else. This can lead to unhealthy choices. How often do you see someone in a coffee shop pouring sweetener into their coffee while eating a Danish pastry? Also, a theory among some nutritionists suggests that sweeteners can boost insulin by fooling the body into thinking they're real sugar. Increased insulin makes you hungry sooner and helps your body store extra fat. It's amazing how often I see overweight people using sweetener in their coffee! Two teaspoons of sugar amount to only 32 calories.

    A better choice of sweetener is Splenda, which contains sucralose, the only sweetener made from sugar. Used in baking and cooking it doesn't lose its sweetness, and it's the only sweetener not associated with health problems.
Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.
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