I’ve voiced my concerns about artificial sweeteners several times in the past. While they initially seemed like a great option for those looking to preserve sweetness without the fattening calories, several studies have made worrying findings about how these replacements may be affecting overall health.
While often used by those trying to lose weight, no studies have been able to show that those who use sweeteners are more likely to lose weight. In fact, some studies have indicated that sweeteners may actually lead to weight gain. The reasons for this are complex and not yet fully understood, but it’s thought that by removing the usual relationship between sweet taste and calories, the body’s ability to normally regulate food intake is disrupted. As a result, those using sweeteners end up eating more than those who don’t. While the effects vary from person to person, it’s clear that sweeteners are not a straightforward cure-all to sugar cravings.
A more recent study found indications that sweeteners might even affect the essential bacteria that live in our gut. The study found that eating artificial sweeteners led to changes in the types of bacteria present in the intestines of mice. More concerning, these changes seemed to translate into glucose intolerance, which is one of the first steps towards diabetes.
With the weight of evidence staring to shift on artificial sweeteners, I’ve decided to recommend that all viewers stop using them. I recognize that some people have seen success using these products. My recommendation comes from concerns that using artificial sweeteners does more harm than good on balance and may be worsening the diseases they seek to help in the long term. Until we know for sure what the effects of these sweeteners are on weight and metabolism, we should all steer clear.
Eliminating sweeteners means going back to real sugars along with the calories they bring. The key is choosing the right sources and using them in moderation. Maple syrup is a low-fructose alternative to table sugar and honey contains several vitamins in addition to sugar that make it a great sweetener as well.
Without sweeteners, your food may taste less sweet, because these chemicals are often much sweeter than regular sugar. Fortunately, your sense of taste usually readjusts within about two weeks. This happens for a variety of reasons that have to do both with your taste buds turning over – which happens every 10 to 14 days – and with your brain readjusting to less sweetness and re-sensitizing to less sweet foods. Give it some time and you’ll find your food will start to taste sweet again.
These sweeteners are everywhere, making eliminating them a real challenge. But I know you can do it. Join me in taking the Packet Pledge to stop using artificial sweeteners and share your decision to do so on Facebook and Twitter using #PacketPledge.