If you are trying to lose weight or have to watch your blood sugar because of diabetes, too much sugar can be a problem. That’s where artificial sweeteners sound like a great idea. Artificial sweeteners, also called sugar substitutes, are compounds that provide the sweetness of sugar without the same calories.

Too good to be true?

The FDA has approved six artificial sweeteners:

Although artificial sweeteners may taste fine, people can be sensitive to them and experience symptoms such as headaches and upset stomach. But an upset tummy or headache is pretty minor in comparison to other concerns about sugar substitutes.

diet-soda2 Killer Reasons to Quit

1.  Sugar substitutes don’t do what you think they do

Numerous studies have found that aspartame and other artificial sweeteners may (I know from experience, do):

  • trigger sugar cravings
  • increase your appetite
  • mess up your body’s natural mechanisms for regulating calorie intake.

What I’m saying here is that they CAUSE WEIGHT GAIN, not the opposite.

2. Some artificial sweeteners may cause cancer

  • Aspartame is broken down into methanol in your body, which is then converted to formaldehyde in the liver before being eliminated. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen – you certainly won’t that in your body.
  • Researchers recently conducted a study that tracked a very large group of people for over two decades. They found that men who drink more than one diet soda a day have an increased risk of blood-borne cancers like non-Hodgkin lymphoma and leukemia.
  • Since being approved by the FDA in 1981, studies have found no convincing evidence that Aspartame causes cancer and the FDA, the World Health Organization, and the American Dietetic Association say that in moderation it poses no threats.  HOWEVER, the CSPI (Centers for Science in the Public Interest) feels differently, and gave Aspartame their lowest ranking in a review of food additives. (source Health.com) So the jury is still out.
  • Tests have not found Splenda to cause cancer and the CSPI deems it safe, however, look at number 1 before loading up on Sucralose.

But even if you’re only an occasional artificial sweetener consumer, why tempt cancer? There still are so many unanswered questions about the negative side effects, I recommend avoiding them.

The fact is that artificial sweeteners don’t contribute anything good to your diet.

What About Natural Substitutes?

Stevia is a “natural” sugar substitute that comes from the Stevia plant. I say “natural” because it comes from a natural place, but many retail versions have additional ingredients such as erythritol, dextrose or “natural flavors” to give it stability and shelf life.

In 201maple syrup3, the  Center for Science in the Public Interest said it that it “considers rebiana, a natural high-potency sweetener obtained from stevia, to be “safe,” though deserving of better testing.”  Crude stevia extracts have not been approved by the FDA (source Health.com) so you’re on your own going down that road. You can find 100% natural stevia powder on-line and in health food stores… if you wish.

Other natural sugar substitutes such as maple syrup and honey raw honey are very similar to sugar with respect to sweetness but may have fewer of the negative side affects of processed sugar.  BUT, they do have more calories than other substitutes and should be used in moderation, just like cane sugar.

Remember this…

No matter how your drinks or treats are sweetened, sweets should only make up a very small part of your healthy diet. Drinking water and eating fruit are much, much better options.

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What do you think about artificial sweeteners and natural sugar substitutes? Leave a comment below.