Whenever anyone finds out I am a dietitian one of the first three questions they ask are something about artificial sweeteners. Do they cause cancer? Are they good/bad for you? What do you use?
The research on artificial sweeteners is inconclusive and controversial. Like most things nutrition- related moderation is key. So before you go put sugar or splenda in your coffee it is important to know what research has shown us.
In 2011 both the American Diabetes Association and American Heart Association stated that when used in moderation artificial sweeteners can in fact lead to weight loss and may even be beneficial to metabolism. I think it is safe to say that most of us know that calorie reduction leads to weight loss. If you are drinking high sugar drinks like regular soda or juices chances are you are taking in both excessive calories and sugar. A regular 12 ounce soda contains approximately 150 calories and 40g of carbohydrate/sugar, where as a diet coke contains 0 calories and 0 g carbohydrate/sugar. If you were to simply replace these beverages with their “diet” version you would automatically lose weight, right? Well like I said we know that calorie reduction leads to weight lost, but not so fast.
It is possible that artificial sweeteners may negatively affect the body’s ability to fully assess the amount of calories being consumed. Artificial sweeteners and sugar are recognized differently by the brain. Sweetness triggers the brain with signals to eat more. The sweetness from artificial sweeteners comes with a lack of calories , which may actually cause a increased hunger for sweet foods and drinks, leading to more intake in the future and weight gain. Researchers have used MRI scans to monitor brain recognition of water that contained sugar or sucralose. Regions of the brain linked with food reward were activated by sugar, where as they were not with sucralose . Artificial sweeteners may not fulfill a desire for caloric sweet intake.
So are artificial sweeteners safe? The answer is, yes. Artificial sweeteners are regulated and their manufacturing is monitored. Each artificial sweetener is reviewed for what different foods it will be in, how much the average person will consume, what the safe amount for consumption is, and if there are any potential hazards to human health. The American Academy of Nutrition and dietetic states “A 150-pound adult can safely consume 2.4 cans of 12-ounce soda or 8.6 packets of sweetener containing saccharin daily. Similarly, that same adult can safely consume 17 cans of 12-ounce soda or 97.4 packets of artificial sweetener containing aspartame daily and not be adversely affected. Meanwhile, the ADI for saccharin for a 50-pound child is .8 of a 12-ounce can of soda daily and 2.8 packets of sweetener, or 5.6 cans of soda and 32.4 packets of artificial sweetener containing aspartame.”
So, what artificial sweeteners are approved? saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, and sucralose. Stevia, a (more) natural sugar has also been approved.
Those with diabetes should always choose sugar substitutes. If you carry this serious health diagnosis using real sugar is detrimental to your health!
Personally, I don’t like the taste of artificial sweeteners, at all. I used to be a splendaholic, but now I just find it foul. I put sugar in my coffee ( not that much), a small amount of honey in my tea, and I try to avoid added sugars.