4 things you didn't know about artificial sweeteners
As I mentioned in my last article, sugar is going through a bad PR moment. Recent documents have come to light showing that the sugar industry played a considerable part in condemning saturated fat in the 1960s, and downplaying the contribution that sugar can have towards issues such as heart disease.
So while we spent about 40 years being told that saturated fat and cholesterol were the bad guys, our sugar consumption was rapidly rising - causing at least as many health problems.
Now that it’s finally in the limelight, how are we to satisfy our sweet cravings without consuming harmful amounts of sugar?
This is where many people have looked to artificial and no-calorie sweeteners, such as aspartame (found in NutraSweet and Equal), saccharin (Sweet’N Low), and sucralose (Splenda). They don’t decay your teeth, and contain no calories so shouldn’t add to issues such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, right? Wrong.
1. Higher aspartame ingestion is directly linked to obesity
One of the main reasons that people consume artificial sweeteners is to reduce their calorie intake, believing that they are a better option than sugar. This is not the case. When we crave sugar and then consume it, our body is rewarded by an influx of calories or energy. With an artificial sweetener, we don’t get the reward, and therefore our cravings continue, leading to increased calorie consumption and weight gain.
2. Artificial sweeteners affect blood sugar levels and can lead to diabetes.
Research has shown us that aspartame affects insulin output and glucose tolerance, meaning it affects blood sugar levels and can lead to metabolic syndrome and diabetes, just like sugar can.
Unstable blood sugar levels, either due to sugar or artificial sweetener consumption, can contribute to inflammation, diabetic complications, and other chronic diseases.
3. Artificial sweeteners are linked to heart disease, just like sugar.
Longer-term studies are now also linking aspartame, as well as other artificial sweeteners such as saccharine, sucralose, and cyclamate, to increased risk of heart disease and chronic kidney disease.
While it was previously thought that very high amounts of sweeteners needed to be ingested for adverse effects to occur, this study was done on just two servings a day, over 12 years.
Considering that artificial sweeteners are found in a wide variety of food and medications, this is not an unrealistically high dose.
4. Artificial sweeteners can accumulate in the body.
Artificial sweeteners are being found in urine, blood, and liver samples of humans, showing that many don’t break down well in the body.
Studies in mice have also shown altered brain and nervous system function following high dose aspartame ingestion.
All this to say that swapping out your sugar for a low-calorie alternative isn’t doing you any favours!
WHAT TO DO?
The thing with sweet cravings is the more you eat sweets, the more you crave sweet. But the opposite is true as well. The less sweet you eat, the less you will crave. Reducing the amount of processed sugary foods you eat, while difficult in the beginning, will change your tastebuds, even out your blood sugar levels, and calm your cravings.
Ensuring that you are eating protein with each meal and snack can also help. Keep nuts and seeds handy for snacks, and eat beans, legumes, eggs, fish, chicken or meat with each meal.
And when you do want sweets, try and consume them in whole-food form. Fruit, and occasionally using natural sweeteners such as honey or maple syrup are best. The more we reduce sweet foods from our life, the less we crave them; and the less obesity, blood sugar imbalances, and inflammation we will have!
Now it’s your turn. Do you have trouble with sugar cravings? Let us know what works or doesn’t work for you in the comments below.
And if you want to unhook yourself from sweet cravings, talk with us. Our meal plans are not only easy, but can sort out cravings within just a few days!
Tracey Loughran is a naturopath and natural health expert with over 10 years of experience.