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Artificial Sweeteners? Maybe that's not the sweetest choice!

Updated: Jan 1, 2021

Artificial sweeteners are a sugar substitute. It’s a food additive that provides a sweet taste. Like sugar would. Except it has low to no calories (food energy).

Surely it sounds like the healthier go to option than sugar itself, when you are trying to live a healthier lifestyle. Right? A coke with 139 calories vs a Coke Zero with 0 calories. Surely our logic tells us that the 0 calories are better than the 139. The choice seems like a no brainer.

I have always been the person who would order the coke instead of the coke zero. Not because I wasn’t aware about the calorie difference. But because of the taste. I could never understand why coke zero, sprite zero, fanta zero, etc always tasted sweeter than the original. But know I finally do!

Yes, being in a calorie deficit (burning more calories than you are consuming) will help you to lose weight. But at what cost are you willing to lose that weight?

Now, we’re not saying that it’s all bad and that you should never consume sweeteners or opt for the Coke Zero. If you are on a weight loss journey, it is okay to temporarily stick to zero calorie soft drinks, etc. As this will result in less calories being consumed every day. Which as a result will lead to a calorie deficit and thus, weight loss.

HOWEVER, this should not be your long-term option. We are all about sustainability and consuming sweeteners in everyday life, all year, year after year will do far more damage than a few grams on the scale.

It’s important to know what you are consuming and how that will affect your body on every level.

Dr David Ludwig, an obesity & weight loss specialist at the Harvard affiliated Boston Children’s Hospital, has a keen interest in products that will help his patients lose weight and keep it off. And the information he has obtained regarding sweeteners worries him!

According to research, all artificial sweeteners are not created equal! The FDA (Food & Drug Administration) has approved five artificial sweeteners: saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, and sucralose. Along with these 5 artificial sweeteners, the FDA has also approved one natural low-calorie sweetener – stevia. It’s important to know how the human body & brain respond to these sweeteners.

Studies have shown that non-nutritive (aka no calorie) sweeteners may affect the way we taste food! As they are far more potent than table sugar and high fructose corn syrup. Just a tiny amount of sweetener produces the same sweet taste that would come from a much higher amount of sugar, but without the calories. Still sound like a great option hey?

The problem comes in that, with the regular use of sweeteners (which are hyper intense! Big taste, small amount), we over stimulate our sugar receptors and as a result we may limit our body’s tolerance for more complex tastes.

Ever wondered why back in the day people ate whatever they wanted, and didn’t gain weight. But in today’s day and age, the poor girl who has sweetener in her tea – gains weight from simply looking at a chocolate. Surely sweeteners are not solely to blame for this. But they way we eat and the process endured by the foods we consume has a massive impact on our bodily functions. It’s not all about being in a calorie deficit. It’s about fueling your body with food and nutrients that add value and contribute to a healthy body.

People who regularly consume artificial sweeteners, may start to find less intensely naturally sweet foods less appealing or even downright unpalatable. In other words, the use of artificial sweeteners can make you ditch healthy, filling and highly nutritious food – while consuming more artificially flavored foods with less nutritional value.

For most people, the sweetener is the go to option in order to limit their calorie intake. But due to the nature of sweeteners, it will cause your body to crave more sweetness. And what do we do then? We tend to choose sweet food over nutritious food. We go for a take away burger instead of the home-made burger. Since we’re drinking calorie free soft drinks, its fine to have the artificially flavored burger, right? So in the end, we end up in a calorie surplus anyway.

I’m not saying you cannot have a MacD’s burger. Please no! I love the McChicken – even though we can debate the percentage of the actual chicken that goes into the burger pattie haha.

What I am saying is that sweeteners every now and again won’t kill you or damage your body. What I am saying is that regular intake of artificial sweeteners, whether it’s from the sugar in your coffee, the zero soft drink, they sauce you poor over your food, or the fast foods you consume. The more you do it, the more your body will crave it. Because you are overstimulating your taste receptors in a way that normal, healthy foods cannot. So you end up eating more of the “yummy” toxins, damaging your receptors and enjoy the actual healthy foods less. All because you yourself have damaged your taste buds – even though your intentions were pure and you thought you were opting for the healthier option!

It’s easy to say that you’ll stop drinking the zero sodas. But it’s easier said than done. Studies have shown that artificial sweeteners are highly addictive.

Maybe actual sugar isn’t so bad as we once thought it was! It all comes down to how it is packaged says Dr Ludwig. “Sugar containing foods in their natural form (such as fruits) tend to be highly nutritious – nutrient-dense, high in fibre and low GI. But on the other hand – refined, concentrated sugar consumed in large amounts rapidly increases blood glucose and insulin levels, increase triglycerides, inflammatory mediators and oxygen radicals – and with them – also the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other chronic illnesses.”

At the end it is every person’s own choice to outweigh the options. You have to determine what you see as a safe amount of artificial sweeteners to consume. Studies have shown that the daily consumption of diet drinks had a 36% greater risk to metabolic syndrome and a 67% higher risk for type 2 diabetes. Yet advertisements claim that these products may help to prevent the above? Something is not adding up right. If they are supposed to help prevent the diseases, but studies have actually proven that they do the opposite, maybe it’s time to reconsider that sachet of sweetener in your next cappuccino.

If you would like to read more on this topic, we have found a few insightful links and articles. Some say sweeteners ain't all bad and others say stay away from it as far as possible. Best bet, we'd say - educate yourself on the topic and make the decision that would be best for your own health!

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