If you have followed me for a while and used my 5 Day Sugar-Free meal plan or participated in one of my Challenges, you already know the negative health effects of eating too much sugar. This is especially true for the “added sugars” in soda pop, candy, baked goods, and many commercially-available cereals.
Added sugar is also hiding in foods you wouldn’t think of including ketchup, salsa, BBQ sauce, bread, crackers, nuts and kombucha. And, ingesting it spikes your blood sugar and insulin and increases your risk for a whole host of issues.
In response to this blood sugar spiking concern, the food industry introduced artificial sweeteners providing consumers with a low calorie, non-blood sugar spiking alternative. Or did it?
The idea behind them is that you can still get the sweetness, without the calories; like when you have a “diet pop” versus a regular one. The idea was to help people maintain a healthy body weight without increasing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, or obesity.
But ideas don’t always work out the way we think they will…
What Are Artificial Sweeteners?
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. In this post, I specifically discuss “artificial sweeteners,” which are synthetic chemicals where a tiny bit tastes very sweet.
Artificial sweeteners are also known as “non-nutritive sweeteners,” and include things like:
- Saccharin (Sweet & Low)
- Aspartame (Equal & NutraSweet)
- Sucralose (Splenda)
Health Effects of Artificial Sweeteners
There is significant research on the negative health effects of artificial sweeteners. Studies show links between artificial sweeteners and many conditions such as insulin resistance, kidney function, fibromyalgia and certain cancers. It’s important to note that much of the research has been on animals, which may or may not translate to humans.
One thing that is interesting is the connection between 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. Another study has shown an increased risk for metabolic syndrome and diabetes for those who consume diet drinks every day.
It’s ironic to think that the use of artificial sweeteners is contributing to the very problem they were intended to correct!
What Happens When We Consume Artificial Sweeteners?
Well, that’s a million-dollar question! There are many ideas that try to explain it, but the reality is it might play out differently in different people. Here are some interesting ideas and research:
- Many people justify eating more treats such as cake because they’ve switched to diet soda
- Sweeteners change our taste preferences to increase our cravings for more sweets
- 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.
- One animal study suggests that saccharin may inspire addictive tendencies toward it.
- 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 is not to replace it with artificial sweeteners.
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. This way you’re reducing your intake of added sugar, without needing to replace it with artificial sweeteners.
- Have less of sugar in your hot morning drink
- Reduce half of the sugar called for in recipes
- Dilute juice with water.
- Download my 5-Day sugar-free meal plan and guide here
Your body will thank you!