Artificial sweeteners are used by many who believe it to be a healthy substitute for regular sugar. While we should all be limiting the amount of regular sugar in our diets, replacing it with artificial sweeteners is not doing us much good either.
Aspartame, sucralose, saccharine, acesulfame K, and erythritol are the most common artificial sweeteners. They are found in foods and drinks we consume every day. This includes cookies, crackers, and other baked goods, yogurt, pudding, gelatin, cereal, diet soda, energy drinks, sports drinks, flavored waters, and powdered drink mixes.
Artificial sweeteners are also found in other products that you may not expect, such as chewing gum, breath mints, ketchup, toothpaste, salad dressings, breads, dried and canned fruit, instant oatmeal, and protein powders. Foods labeled as “keto” or “sugar-free” almost always contain artificial sweeteners.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently advised against using artificial sweeteners to control body weight or reduce risk of chronic diseases. Results from their research show that replacing sugars with artificial sweeteners does not have any benefits for these conditions, has no nutritional value, and is not essential to the diet. Moreover, with long-term use, artificial sweeteners have the potential to cause type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and early death in adults.
Artificial sweeteners have also been shown to increase high blood cholesterol and triglycerides, high blood pressure, abdominal weight gain, and blood clot formation. It can cause stiffening of the arteries and inflammation. These all increase the risk for heart attack and stroke.
Use of artificial sweeteners has been shown to lower insulin secretion and decrease insulin sensitivity, causing high fasting blood sugar (glucose) levels. It can also interfere with gut bacteria that helps to regulate glucose levels and metabolism.
Eating or drinking foods and drinks with artificial sweeteners can signal your body to create more fat cells and to hold on to fat cells already created. It can cause dysfunction related to your hunger signals, causing you to feel hungry more often and not feel satisfied when filled. And it can cause people to crave high sugar foods.
This doesn’t provide justification for eating high sugar foods. Instead, we should seek foods and drinks that are naturally sugar-free or that contain natural sugars. Choosing fewer processed foods will automatically decrease your consumption of artificial sweeteners.
Eating balanced meals at regular mealtimes lowers the chance of snacking between meals or overindulging on cookies and other desserts. You should also include more unprocessed starches, such as poi, rice, sweet potato, taro, breadfruit, pumpkin, and oatmeal in your diet. If you crave something sweet, studies show that fruit is perfectly healthy to eat and does not affect blood sugar and cholesterol, cause diabetes, or cause you to gain weight.
Instead of flavored drinks, choose water or waters infused with lemon, mint, or fruit. Mamaki and other herbal teas are another good choice. Limit your intake of specialty coffee drinks. And if you are looking for an energy boost that would normally come from an energy drink or a soda, try matcha green tea instead. The more natural the product, the better it usually is.