What are the harmful effects of artificial sweeteners?

Sari Greaves
Nutrition & Dietetics
Studies have confirmed the long held view that eating more of the artificial sweeteners will immediately keep your calories down but in the long run can make you crave more of those high calorie foods! These artificial supplements can actually increase your cravings for high calorie foods and in the long run, increase your calorie intake! How can this be when they do not add any calories to your food or beverages?

Studies have confirmed that these sweeteners are actually “so” sweet, that they can over-stimulate your sweet sensors in your brain. By doing this, although they do not actually add any calories, they act like “high calorie” or “high glycemic” foods and increase your insulin and your cravings for more sweets and carbohydrates. In contrast, if you were to eat foods such as fruits, berries or carbohydrates in combination with other food types like fats or proteins, your cravings and/or insulin levels do not rise as much. Actually, these foods, although giving you calories at the onset, actually tend to keep you more full and satisfied for longer periods of time. At the same time, they are giving you some of the more important vitamins and nutrients that you require!

Are there other harmful effects of these artificial sweeteners? No -- at this point in time, all studies have disputed any relationship between artificial sweeteners and cancers or other life threatening ailments. In moderation, they are not harmful in the long run. However, the concern is when taken in large quantities, such as in diet drinks, when large quantities can be consumed “unconsciously” or in short periods of time. These habits are what tend to lead to poor eating practices and the tendency for weight gain or at the very least can make it more difficult to find success with weight loss.

So what do we do -- only drink water? Well, water is probably one of the better drinks to consume. However, in moderation, everything can be tolerated and safe. I would recommend trying to keep the “diet drinks” down to 2 or 3 a day and always try and mix it with a snack such as nuts or veggies -- they can help offset the future hunger the drinks may bring!
Keri Peterson, MD
Internal Medicine

If you've heard rumors that artificial sweeteners are harmful to health, worry no more. In this video, internal medicine specialist Dr. Keri Peterson explains why sugar subs don't deserve such a bad rap.

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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.