If you want to lose some weight you may think that replacing sugar with artificial sweeteners is a good idea. Do you drink lots of tea or coffee and cannot drink it without sugar? If you add two heaped teaspoons of sugar to every cup of your favourite drink and you drink four cups a day, this means you consume 200 empty calories which don’t do anything good to your body – they only help you gain weight.
Artificial sweeteners barely have any calories so they do sound like a good option for sweetening your hot drinks. However, are they really a good option from a health point of view? Do they really help you lose weight? It’s not totally straight forward…
Different types of artificial sweeteners
First of all, there are many different types of artificial sweeteners but not all of them are approved for use everywhere in the world. Cyclamate, for example, has been banned in the US after an animal study showed a potential increased risk for cancer when consuming it. Many countries, however, have approved it safe for human consumption based on dozens of subsequent studies. In the EU it is a permitted sweetener and it’s considered safe when acceptable daily intake does not exceed 7 mg per 1 kg of body weight.
Apart from cyclamate, commonly used artificial sweeteners include aspartame, sucralose and saccharin. Aspartame is probably one of the most controversial sweeteners as there’s been so much negative press about it. But what is the truth? NHS have explained it all, read their article here.
Artificial sweeteners and weight loss
There have been some positive studies showing that artificial sweeteners may help to reduce body weight, fat mass and waist circumference. One way this happens is when individuals replace regular soft drinks with sugar-free versions. The other way is when individuals stop using processed sugar in their foods and drinks and replace it with artificial sweeteners. This also reduces the amount of calories they consume.
There’s been also some studies which show weight gain in people who regularly consume artificial sweeteners. That’s because people don’t get satisfaction by consuming sugar-free foods and drinks. Artificial sweeteners actually made them eat more and this results in weight gain.
So different studies, different results, but before you rush to stock up on sugar-free soft drinks and artificial sweeteners let’s look at some other facts about artificial sweeteners.
The dangers of artificial sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners are well, artificial, not natural. We have to keep this mind. They cannot be consumed in high quantities – there is a reason for an acceptable daily intake. There have been studies to uncover what impact they may have on our bodies and the results are not necessarily positive. What’s more, there are a lot of things we don’t know yet about these substances. There might be more negative health effects but more research is needed to uncover this.
There is one study which showed that the artificial sweetener saccharin disrupted the gut bacteria balance in four out of seven healthy participants not used to consuming them. This resulted in worse blood sugar control as little as five days after consuming the artificial sweetener. However, more studies on humans are needed to confirm this effect.
When it comes to cancer, based on the current scientific evidence, artificial sweeteners are unlikely to increase the risk of cancer in humans (as long as the acceptable daily intake is not exceeded).
Dangers of artificial sweeteners have definitely been inflated in the news but we have to keep in mind that some people will be more sensitive to them than others. So while some will tolerate them well, others will experience some negative effects.
Natural is still the best: Natural sweeteners
I am a strong advocate of natural living so I have to mention some natural alternatives to artificial sweeteners. It’s all good what current scientific evidence shows about artificial sweeteners but I am not convinced. Some people may consume way too much without even realising and in the long term, this could have a negative impact on their health. But we don’t know really what can happen. So.. better be safe than sorry.
If you want to quit refined sugar and reduce your calorie intake you should consider these natural sweeteners:
- Yacon Syrup
These are just some of the alternatives to try if you want to ditch white sugar but there are others which are not ‘artificial’ and safe to consume. However, these may come with extra calories and some could give you blood sugar spikes but if you use them in moderation you won’t see any adverse effects on your health.
What are your thoughts on artificial sweeteners? Do you use them? What do you use to sweeten your food and drinks?
The Truth about Aspartame