Information on nutrition and health can sure get overwhelming and the battle over whether artificial sugars are good or bad have been going on for years, making many people confused. I hope to lessen the confusion and give some simple explanations on the implications of artificial sweeteners.
There are several artificial sweeteners out there but here are some of the most popular:
Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet, NatraTaste Blue)
Acesulfame K (ACE K, Sunette, Equal Spoonful, Sweet One, Sweet ‘n Safe)
Saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low, Sweet Twin)
Side effects from eating any of these artificial sweeteners include headaches and gastrointestinal stress not to mention some pretty serious health implications listed here:
Type 2 Diabetes: Artificial sweeteners can be 200-600x sweeter than sugar depending on the type. These sweeteners retrain the taste buds to need more and more, sweeter and sweeter foods. This leads to even greater incidences of obesity, type 2 diabetes (1), kidney damage and so much more.
Cardiovascular Disease: Studies found that people who drank diet soda every day had a 36% greater risk of developing metabolic syndrome and a 67% greater risk of developing diabetes. Both of these conditions greatly raise the odds of having a stroke or heart attack. (2), (3)
Glucose Intolerance or Insulin Resistance: This is sometimes refereed to as pre-diabetes. Studies are showing that artificial sweeteners are essentially changing our gut bacteria and causing disruptions when we do try to eat glucose. Most artificial sweeteners cannot be digested, so they directly encounter our gut bacteria, and this may be where the problem starts. (4)
What about REAL SUGAR?
Sugar-containing foods in their natural form, whole fruit, for example, tend to be highly nutritious—nutrient-dense, high in fiber, and low in glycemic load. On the other hand, refined, concentrated sugar consumed in large amounts rapidly increases blood glucose and insulin levels, increases triglycerides, inflammatory mediators and oxygen radicals, and with them, the risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other chronic illnesses.
Stick to REAL food and REAL sugars from fruit, honey (I prefer Manuka or raw honey), and Stevia which is a natural sugar that is very safe. Of course all of these natural sugars are always best eaten in moderation.