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What Are Artificial Sweeteners? Are They Bad For Me?

May 20, 2019

Consuming too much sugar can pose a huge risk to your health. In fact, excess sugar consumption is linked to obesity and other chronic diseases. (Kubala, 2018). Artificial sweeteners are used as a substitute for sugar, giving you the sweet taste that you're craving with fewer calories. But do artificial sweeteners come with health risks too? Let's dive into the facts.

What Are Artificial Sweeteners?

Artificial sweeteners are chemicals that are added to food and drinks to make them taste sweeter. They're used as an alternative to sugar and often come in low or zero calorie options. People are drawn to these alternatives when they're looking to take in fewer calories while still enjoying the taste of what they're consuming.

Below are some common artificial sweeteners in the UK and the US.

  • Aspartame
  • Acesulfame potassium
  • Advantame
  • Aspartame-acesulfame salt
  • Cyclamate
  • Neotame
  • Neohesperidin
  • Saccharin
  • Sucralose

Appetite and Weight

People who want to lose weight often opt for artificial sweeteners. However, not all types of artificial sweeteners have the same effect on your weight and appetite. Some people believe that artificial sweeteners will increase your appetite and cause you to eat more. Although this theory may have some research behind it, more studies prove it to be false. There's more research backing the idea that you'll feel less hungry and consume fewer calories if you choose foods and drinks that include artificial sweeteners.  

Are Artificial Sweeteners Bad for You?

There is concern that artificial sweeteners have a negative impact your health. Artificial sweeteners don't cause certain health problems such as metabolic syndrome and may even reduce your risk of some health conditions. If you have diabetes, artificial sweeteners can help you reduce your sugar intake. But research is still being conducted to find out more about adverse effects of artificial sweeteners on diabetes as well as growth of bad bacteria in the gut and cancer. Many artificial sweeteners, namely saccharine and aspartame, are less likely to cause tooth decay than table sugar (n.d.). The FDA has approved all artificial sweeteners on the market. (n.d.). While you may find studies that show that these sweeteners can cause cancer, there are also studies that show that they do not. It's important to look at all the factors that go into each study. This includes what types of people or species are being used, how much of the substance they are being given and for how long. Most of us want to know if using artificial sweeteners moderately over a lifetime can cause cancer and those types of extensive studies often don't exist. 

Headaches, Depression, Seizures and Other Side Effects

Artificial sweeteners don't directly cause seizures, depression, or headaches. However, some people are more prone to these effects than others and should limit their intake of sugars and sweeteners as much as possible. If you're allergic to sulfonamides or have phenylketonuria, you may not want to consume artificial sweeteners in any amount. (Ayres, 2019).

The Takeaway

You may not need to be concerned about artificial sweeteners risking your health. It is important to talk with your doctor if you already have health problems and always make yourself aware of the ingredients before consuming anything. Artificial sweeteners can be a better choice when adding additional sugar to your food in regards to dental health, blood sugar levels, and weight. However, some people mayexperience negative side effects resulting from the consumption of artificial sweeteners. You can opt for natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup but remember that those options come packed full with calories.

References

Ayres, C. (2019, May 22). 18 Advantages and Disadvantages of Artificial Sweeteners. Retrieved from https://connectusfund.org/7-advantages-and-disadvantages-of-artificial-sweeteners
Kubala, J. (2018, June 3). 11 Reasons Why Too Much Sugar Is Bad for You. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/too-much-sugar
(n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.umass.edu/nibble/infofile/artsweet.html