The Bad News About Artificial Sweeteners

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Some time ago I published an article about how the harm caused by artificial sweeteners is often exaggerated, and how they might not be as bad for you as the media might report it to be. I wrote that article not because of my own usage of it, but also as a way to address some misinformation, which I feel is important. Here it is: Artificial sweeteners – the big evil everyone warns you about.

In the interest of fairness, however, I felt the need to also report about the potential harm it may cause. Notice that I used the word “may”, because no definitive proof exists yet, or at least no proof that is concrete enough to convince my scientific-research-oriented brain.

The points I will be making today might have heavier implications on people with diabetes. For those of you who don’t know, people with type II diabetes have to actively avoid sugar, for reasons that will be explained in another blog post. Some diabetics who do enjoy the taste of sugar will, of course, turn to artificial sweeteners to satisfy their sweet tooth.

There is some research suggesting that artificial sweeteners can increase people’s risks of developing type II diabetes and obesity. And this is not some trivial small scale research either. Some of them have even come from Harvard University, which of course, is well known for its academic rigour. So today we will be looking at three very clear effects artificial sweeteners have on your body:

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One: It causes an increase in insulin levels

For those of you who don’t know, insulin is a regulatory hormone in your body that is influenced by, amongst other things, simple sugars. In fact, issues with insulin production are part of the danger that diabetics face. Artificial sweeteners, which can be sweeter than sugar, can actually set off an increase insulin response. By the way, elevated insulin levels can also result in weight gain.

Two: It affects how our brains deal with sugar

Although artificial sweeteners are not sugar, it can affect the way our brains deal with sugar over a long period. You see, when we ingest sugar, the brain’s “food reward centre” is activated, with the reward being calories for energy. With prolonged artificial sweetener use, the brain might learn to bypass this “centre” when we consume sugar because it is not linked with the reward. (Mine is probably at the point of no return) So our body responds to this “lack of reward” by sending more hunger signals, leading to increased overall food intake.

Three: It kills off good bacteria

When we think of bacteria, our default response is to associate them with diseases. Well, the truth is that our gut actually contains a lot of good bacteria that help with our digestion. Artificial sweeteners have been shown to kill the good bacteria, which puts us at a greater risk of illnesses and metabolic diseases. Furthermore, artificial sweeteners may also enhance the growth of “bad” bacteria that help us store fat more easily.

Pretty confronting points, aren’t they? So what is my verdict? I personally think that you can have artificial sweeteners, but only in moderation. Pretty stock-standard advice for anything, isn’t it? While the points above may be true to a certain extent, I doubt that reasonable usage of artificial sweeteners can cause them to happen. Of course, if you drink ten cans of diet soda a day, then it definitely will.

So what do you do if you are trying to lose weight by cutting down your sugar intake? Well, I would suggest replacing some sugars with artificial sweeteners. However, what you ultimately want to do is wean off your addiction to anything that is sweet, be it high in sugars or artificial sweeteners.

That means that you can still have your favourite sugary snacks, but only once in a while. Also, you must not feel guilty when you do so, as long as you stick to your overall weight loss plan.

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