With more and more people attempting to eliminate sugar from their diets in an effort to lose weight and become healthier, artificial sweeteners are becoming increasingly popular. The problem is that most people are unaware of the negative effects of artificial sweeteners. While they are typically calorie free and may seem like the better alternative to sugar, there is little to no truth to this concept whatsoever.
So, what are artificial sweeteners? They are basically sugar substitutes that are synthetically manufactured using herbs and sometimes even sugar itself. Typically they are much sweeter than regular sugar. According to the FDA, there are five approved artificial sweeteners. These include acesulfame potassium, aspartame, neotame, saccharin and sucralose. They are most commonly known as Equal, Sweet’N Low and Splenda, and are commonly found in blue, pink and yellow packets.
Artificial sweeteners are found in many different foods and beverages that claim to be “diet” or “sugar free.” This includes various drinks, gum, candies, juices and even frozen treats. People don’t want the added sugar in their diet, but they don’t want to nix the sweets altogether. This is why they turn to artificial sweeteners in the first place. Let’s take a closer look at the reasons why artificial sweeteners should be avoided.
Negative Effects on the Body
Various types of artificial sweeteners can have adverse effects on the human body. Take a look at each of the five approved artificial sweeteners and the health risks involved with them.
Acesulfame Potassium is an artificial sweetener that lacks any type of long-term study or testing. While it has not been tested as much as some of the other sweeteners, it still contains methylene chloride, which is a known carcinogen.
According to MedicineNet, “Long-term exposure to methylene chloride can cause headaches, depression, nausea, mental confusion, liver effects kidney effects, visual disturbances and cancer in humans.”
Aspartame is one of the more common artificial sweeteners, and it is also the one with the most controversy. In 1998, H. J. Roberts, MD, described what is now known as “aspartame disease.”
As noted by MedicineNet, “Some of these symptoms include headache, dizziness, change in mood, vomiting or nausea, abdominal pain and cramps, change in vision, diarrhea, seizures/ convulsions, memory loss, and fatigue.” Other symptoms may include: “ fibromyalgia symptoms, spasms, shooting pains, numbness in your legs, cramps, tinnitus, joint pain, unexplainable depression, anxiety attacks, slurred speech, blurred vision, multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus and various cancers.”
Neotame is very similar to aspartame, which means that it can cause similar effects. Much like Acesulfame Potassium, this sweetener lacks long-term studies and testing.
Saccharin is an artificial sweetener that was once listed on the National Toxicology Program’s list of potential carcinogens. It has since been removed from the list, but that does not mean that it is safe. In 1997, the Center for the Science in Public Interest wrote, “it would be highly imprudent for the NTP to delist saccharin. Doing so would give the public a false sense of security, remove any incentive for further testing and result in greater exposure to this probably carcinogen in tens of millions of people, including
children (indeed, fetuses).” Other common effects of saccharin include allergic reactions. These reactions can lead to headache, difficulty breathing, skin rash and upset stomach.
Sucralose is an artificial sweetener that is marketed to be just like sugar. This is a far stretch from the truth. To understand this, you have to learn how sucralose is made. Sucralose is basically made by treating sugar with chlorine. That’s right—chlorine—a carcinogen that is included in many pesticides and household cleaning agents. In fact, sucralose was discovered by accident when trying to develop a new insecticide. Some common negative effects of this product include gastrointestinal problems, skin irritation, wheezing, cough, chest pains, mood swings, anger, itchy eyes and many others.
When you take a look at all of the negative effects of these artificial sweeteners, it makes you want to eliminate them from your diet entirely!
Artificial sweeteners have actually been proven to have addictive qualities. Holly Strawbridge, an Executive Editor at Harvard Medical School, concluded that “Animal studies suggest that artificial sweeteners may be addictive. In studies of rats who were exposed to cocaine, then given a choice between intravenous cocaine and oral saccharin, most chose saccharin.”
With that being said, it may be more difficult to ditch the artificial sweeteners than you thought it would be. Many people find themselves experiencing withdrawal symptoms when they abruptly discontinue the use of artificial sweeteners in their diet.
Another thing to consider is the studies that show artificial sweeteners likely make you gain weight. The reasoning behind this is due to the fact that the artificial sweeteners are intensely sweet. They leave you craving more sweets. This is why so many people that drink diet sodas tend to crave sweets more often. Therefore, what you could be viewing as helpful to your overall health and wellness could actually be harmful.
What Sweeteners are Safe?
Sugar is not all that bad in and of itself. In fact, Dr. Ludwig, a weight loss specialist at Boston Children’s Hospital, states that “Sugar-containing foods in their natural form, whole fruit, for example, tendto 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.”
The best sugars are the ones that are found naturally in the foods that we eat. When you choose to sweeten your foods with sweeteners, you should definitely avoid artificial sweeteners. Try using nutritive sweeteners, such as stevia and honey. These sweeteners are definitely the better option when compared to non-nutritive sweeteners and artificial sweeteners, but they should still be used in moderation.
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