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Is Sugar Free, Care Free?

A study conducted among adults over a 5-year span proved daily consumption of “diet beverages” increased their risk for type 2 diabetes by 67%.

For a long time artificial sweeteners seemed like the answer for effective weight loss and anyone with Type 2 Diabetes (T2D), due to their lower calorie content. However, research is telling us they may do more damage than good for various reasons.

To date, the FDA has approved five artificial sweeteners: saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame and sucralose.

Artificial Sweetener Brand Name(s) Sweetness
Saccharin Sweet’N Low®, Necta Sweet®, others 300 times sweeter than sugar
Acesulfame-K Sunett®, Sweet One® 200 times sweeter than sugar
Aspartame Equal®, NutraSweet®, others 180 times sweeter than sugar
Neotame Newtame® 7,000 to 13,000 times sweeter than sugar
Sucralose Splenda® 600 times sweeter than sugar

How the human body and brain respond to these sweeteners is complicated. Consider that using artificial sweeteners may cause people to replace the calories lost through other sources, possibly preventing weight loss. The idea of “because I’m drinking calorie-free beverages, I can have potato chips” is concerning.

Another consideration is the possibility of artificial sweeteners altering the way food tastes. Artificial sweeteners are sweeter than table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. Over time, people who often use artificial sweeteners may find healthy and nutritious foods such as fruit less appealing, because they aren’t overly sweet like artificial sweeteners. Choosing sweeter food with less nutrition value leads to weight gain. In one study, those who drank more than 21 diet drinks per week were twice as likely to become overweight or obese as those who didn’t. Finally, research suggests that artificial sweeteners may be addictive, which may make them more difficult to give up. They affect the same parts of the brain that cope with addiction and artificial sweeteners are a substance some feel they can’t live without, which is a sign of addiction.

So, what are some better ways to control blood sugar without turning towards artificial sweeteners?

Choose the healthiest sources of carbohydrates as often as possible and know that not all carbohydrates are created equal. Many people think of whole grains first as the healthiest carbohydrates, but forget about fruits and vegetables. Fresh fruit and vegetables are wholesome options that have not been refined or processed in any way.

If you’re craving the taste of a flavored beverage, add fruit or herbs to your water as a healthy alternative to reaching for that diet soda.


References

  1. Swithers SE. Artificial sweeteners produce the counterintuitive effect of inducing metabolic derangements. Trends in endocrinology and metabolism: TEM. 2013;24(9):431-441.
  1. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Use of Nutritive and Nonnutritive Sweeteners. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2012;112:739-758.
  1. Gardner C, Wylie-Rosett J, Gidding SS, Steffen LM, Johnson RK, Reader D, Lichtenstein AH. Nonnutritive sweeteners: current use and health perspectives: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association. Circulation 2012;126:509–19.
  1. Jennifer A. Nettleton, PHD. Diet Soda Intake and Risk of Incident Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. Diabetes Care 2009 Apr; 32(4): 688-694.
  2. Nettleton JA, Lutsey PL, Wang Y, Lima JA, Michos ED, Jacobs DR Jr. Diet soda intake and risk of incident metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). Diabetes Care 2009;32:688–94.
  3. Anton SD, Martin CK, Han H, Coulon S, Cefalu WT, Geiselman P, Williamson DA. Effects of stevia, aspartame, and sucrose on food intake, satiety, and postprandial glucose and insulin levels. Appetite 2010;55:37–43.
  4. Mattes RD, Popkin BM. Nonnutritive sweetener consumption in humans: effects on appetite and food intake and their putative mechanisms. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;89:1–14.