Artificial Sweeteners: Healthy or Harmful?
When I see my nutrition clients, one of the first things I ask them is what they drink. Of course, I want to hear that they drink water and I will usually go into why water is important, but I really want to uncover something else with this question. I want to know if they are drinking diet drinks with artificial sweeteners. Just this one small tweak, getting rid of these beverages and artificial sweeteners all together in your diet, can be a game changer when you are trying to lose weight and get healthy.
There are many foods, like artificial sweeteners that produce inflammation, bloating and low energy and it is best to avoid them and to find better substitutes.
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Here are the 4 main reasons you need to stop consuming artificial sweeteners.
Artificial sweeteners increase your risk of glucose intolerance, which is related to pre-diabetes. This puts you at a risk of developing diabetes. When you have glucose intolerance you also increase your risk of insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas. Insulin is important because allows the cells in our body to take up the glucose and convert it to glycogen which is our usable stored energy. When there is insulin resistance, the body needs greater amounts of insulin to do the same work. An increase in insulin resistance increases your risk of both type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Artificial sweeteners decrease the amount of good gut bacteria. Having a diversity of gut bacteria, and especially good gut bacteria can improve your metabolism. Having overgrown bad gut bacteria can also put you at a risk for Type 2 diabetes.
Artificial sweeteners are also very hard to digest. They cause gas and bloating. Gas and bloating will also bring your energy levels down. Now I am not even going to go into how they might be harmful to you in terms of being neurotoxins, so please be aware that there is some research suggesting neurotoxicity may also be an issue. So I highly recommend you check out your labels, not only for your low calorie or “sugar-free” beverages, but also snacks that you are eating. If you see any of the artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols below, steer clear, because they will produce a lot of bloating and bring your energy down: Acesulfame potassium, Aspartame, Neotame, Saccharin, Sucralose, Advantame, Eyrthritol, Sorbitol, Mannitol, Hydrogenated starch hydrolysate, Isomalt, Lactitol, Maltitol, Xylitol.
Artificial sweeteners send mixed signal to brain which can increase your cravings for sweets. Since artificial sweeteners taste sweet, some are so intensely sweet that they can actually taste up to 600xs sweeter than regular sugar, but there are no calories attached to them, the brain does not register that it has gotten a dose of “sweetness.” We trick our taste buds, but our brain is smarter than that. We cannot essentially fool our brain into thinking that it had any sugar at all. This may increase the likelihood that your “sugar-free” beverage is not killing your craving for sweets and you might actually end up craving more sweets in the long run.
I wish I had better news about artificial sweeteners. Many people turn to them because they think it will actually reduce their risk of things like diabetes and heart disease. Sugar has gotten a bad rap, and it is understandable. But sugar in massive quantities is really the problem. Sugar use to be considered a “condiment” decades ago, and now it is more like a staple in our diet. It is in all kinds of processed foods, so chances are we are eating way too much. However, I caution you to also think about how artificial sweeteners may also be taking on the role of being a “staple” food. It is found in candies, beverages, yogurt and other snacks. So please read your labels. Be a good consumer. It is your body and your choice.
If you want to learn more about foods that cause you to, gain weight, have inflammation, bloating and low energy, click here.