Why Artificial Sweeteners are Terrible for Your Health (Part 1)

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Why Artificial Sweeteners are Terrible for your Health

We all know that sugar added to food and drinks is a problem – especially for folks that have health issues (such as diabetes) and for people that are trying to lose weight.  However, most of us are used to enjoying sweet foods, and don’t want to live our lives without them.  Therefore, food manufacturers came up with chemical artificial sweeteners, which have the ability to stimulate the sweet taste receptors of our tongue without the calories of sugar.  These products are very sweet, and are commonly added to foods and drinks that are then labeled as “weight loss friendly” – due to their low calorie count.  But despite the use of these low-cal sweeteners and diet foods, the obesity epidemic has only gotten worse.

There are Many Types of Artificial Sweeteners – These are the most common ones:

  • Acesulfame-K (found in Sunett and Sweet One)
  • Aspartame (Nutrasweet, Equal)
  • Neotame
  • Saccharin (Sweet’N Low)
  • Sucralose (Splenda)

Artificial Sweeteners May Disrupt Appetite Regulation

“I just want something sweet!”  How many times have you thought or said this?  Well, we are all alike in that we all seek “reward” from our food, not just nutrition.  And usually this is in the form of seeking out something that tastes sweet.  When we eat sugar (REAL sugar), brain chemicals and hormones are triggered as part of the “food reward” pathway.  This pathway results in feeling satisfied after eating (and shares pathways with addictive behaviors too).

When we substitute artificial sweeteners for sugar, it is believed that the lack of calories prevents complete activation of the food reward pathway, and studies have shown that artificial sweeteners are often linked with increased appetite and further cravings for sugary foods, and may lead to overall increased food intake, which is not what you want if you are trying to lose weight!

Artificial Sweeteners May Increase Sugar Cravings

All artificial sweeteners are (pound for pound) much sweeter than actual sugar.  Some studies have shown that this unnatural sweetness increases sugar cravings.  Flavor preferences can be “trained” in humans with repeated exposure – for example:  reducing salt in the diet for a few weeks results in a preference for lower levels of salt.  It’s no different with sweeteners:  The more we use artificial sweeteners, the more we may desire eating sweet things.

Studies on Artificial Sweeteners and Body Weight

Some observational scientific studies have found that artificially sweetened drinks are linked to weight gain rather than weight loss.

Artificial Sweeteners and Metabolic Health

In observational studies, artificial sweetener consumption is linked to metabolic disease.  Metabolic disease includes an increased risk of metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.  One study found that diet soft drinks were linked to a 121% greater risk of type 2 diabetes!  Another study found that these beverages were linked to a 34% greater risk of metabolic syndrome. (References:  Ley RETurnbaugh PJKlein SGordon JI. Microbial ecology: human gut microbes associated with obesity Nature. 2006 Dec 21; 444(7122):1022-3.  Musso GGambino RCassader M. Obesity, diabetes, and gut microbiota: the hygiene hypothesis expanded? Diabetes Care. 2010 Oct; 33(10):2277-84.)

Another study showed that artificial sweeteners caused a disruption in the gut bacterial environment and induced glucose intolerance in both rats and humans.  Why does this matter?  Well, gut bacteria are incredibly important for our health – we cannot exist without them.  Further research must be done to understand the gut flora disruption.  Disruption of gut flora has been implicated in obesity and type 2 diabetes. (Reference:  Suez J. et. al. Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota. Nature. 2014 Oct 9; 514(7521):181-6.)

Long-Term Consumption of One Artificial Sweetener May Cause Brain Problems

Rats that were given aspartame showed a lower concentration of glutathione, which is linked to age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s disease.  They also observed vascular congestion in the rat’s brains.  Excessive intake of aspartame can lead to damaged neurons and can contribute to diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s/dementia, Parkinson’s disease, hearing loss, ALS, and other conditions.

Next time I’ll be asking you if you are suffering from health issues that are a result of using artificial sweeteners…

Contributing post from Bobbie Covert~Nutritionist for Fit Chick Express

If you would like more information about Bobbie Covert, or more information about our fitness program for women, visit us at www.FitChickExpress.com.