The Truth About Artificial Sweeteners

diet

The biggest debate when someone is trying to lose weight is either “do I cut carbs?” or “are diet drinks okay?”. We have all heard rumor over rumor stating that “aspartame causes cancer” and “diet drinks make you gain weight”, but how many of those rumors were sponsored from soft drink industries that are trying to promote that their product is still better? Think, when is the last time you heard “from a natural sugar source”? Does this really make it better? Healthier? Make you not gain weight, or “digest it” better? If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, then I have some good (or bad) news for you, depending on how you view it.

Myth Busters 101

Q) Do artificial sweeteners cause cancer?

A) Simple answer- there is limited data to correlate cancer with artificial sweetener consumption

  • A systematic review analyzed 92 search results of “cancer” and “artificial sweeteners” and found five papers, which suited all of their inclusion criteria, with 599, 714 participants. These studies, unfortunately, cannot be specified, as they were all heterogeneous in the fact that all the different “cancer links” were at different sites in the body. Therefore, there is inconclusive evidence that cancer is linked to consumption. (Mishra et al., 2015)
  • There may be links with heavy consumption, in other words, those who have 12 cans of diet pepsi per day, every day, as well as a relatively unhealthy diet and lifestyle anyways. See the link?

Q) Do artificial sweetners increase diabetes risk?

A) Simple answer- Maybe. However, research on humans is limited, and you need to consume a ridiculous amount of artificial sweetener to cause these adverse effects.

  • In rat studies, it has been found that artificial sweetners may affect the gut bacteria, which decreases insulin production and increases glucose intolerance, thus leading to a higher blood glucose level. (Suez et al., 2014)
  • Also, guess the amount of artificial sweetener used in these trials? Enough to sweeten 40 cans of diet cola. Will you ever consume that much? Also, the main sweetener used is saccharin, which is no longer used to sweeten diet drinks (there has been a movement towards aspartame instead).
  • In order to assess the glucose intolerance, it is tested how quickly the body can break it down. In the groups with the excessive amount of saccharin, they tended to have a higher glucose intolerance, which means it remained in the blood for longer, rather than going into the cells and tissues, thus following a diabetic trend.

Q) Do Artificial Sweetners cause weight gain?

A) Simple answer- No

  • First, please think about this statement quoted from the British Dietetics Association:
    • “Sugars (also called caloric sweeteners, nutritive sweeteners) provide calories (i.e., energy in the form of carbohydrates) such as fructose and sucrose (e.g., table sugar, honey, syrup; 3.75kcal·gram).”
    • “Artificial sweeteners (also called sugar substitutes, high-intensity sweeteners, high-potency sweeteners, non-nutritive sweeteners) provide little or no calories.”
  • They believe artificial sweeteners are in fact, safe to consume, as they can help moderate calorific intake, while satisfying cravings
  • The BDA (BDA, 2016) also suggests that artificial sweeteners can be implemented into a weight-loss regimen, on a case-to-case basis
  • Although, there has been some incidents in which those consuming artificial sweetened drinks tended to eat more calories than those who consumed sugar drinks, as they felt they had more calorie allocations due to the removal of calories from their drinks

Q) Are artificial sweeteners bad for your teeth?

A) Complete opposite, actually! They have been shown to help with your teeth, believe it or not. I once believed they were bad for your teeth as well, until I was proved wrong

  • Sweeteners such as xylitol have actually been shown to help decrease tooth demineralization
  • Since there is no sugar, there is no bacteria to ferment on your teeth

 

References

BDA. 2016. The Use of Artificial Sweeteners. Retrieved November 26, 2016, from BDA, https://www.bda.uk.com/improvinghealth/healthprofessionals/sweetners

Mishra, A., Ahmed, K., Froghi, S., & Dasgupta, P. (2015). Systematic review of the relationship between artificial sweetener consumption and cancer in humans: analysis of 599,741 participants. International journal of clinical practice69(12), 1418-1426.

Suez, J., Korem, T., Zeevi, D., Zilberman-Schapira, G., Thaiss, C. A., Maza, O., … & Kuperman, Y. (2014). Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota. Nature514(7521), 181-186.

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