Artificial Sweeteners: Yay or nay?

Most of the “extreme” diets out there will tell you to cut out artificial sweeteners from your diet, completely. Especially Sucralose and Aspartame. It may not be completely necessary for weight loss. But here’s what we know, based on the research that’s been done.

1) High volumes of artificial sweeteners may cause sugar cravings.

In some people, large amounts of artificial sweeteners can actually cause your body to react with strong sugar cravings. (You told it what you were consuming was sweet — and when it wasn’t, your body wants it!).. So if you’re eating tons of foods (and/or drinking tons of diet sodas) – be prepared to be miserable as your body tells you it NEEDS sugar… It’s a horrible way to go through the day.

One or two food items per day as a treat that have sucralose/aspartame also shouldn’t cause any problems… but monitor yourself for sugar cravings roughly 1-hour after consuming it. If you experience problems with that cravings — pull it back. The cravings aren’t worth it.

2) Don’t they cause cancer?

There ARE studies that show links in rats and other lab-animals, but only in quantities that would be equivalent to a human drinking 50+ gallons a day of diet-soda. (That amount of ANYTHING will probably cause cancer).

There is probably no other food substance on earth that has been studied more times, with more money, from more interested parties than artificial sweeteners.   So they cause cancer in humans?  Emphatically, No!!  The studies showing linkages to cancer are bunk, and based on (very) bad science.

We have MOUNDS of good science on this, over the last 50 years. (If they are ever proven to be a problem, the food industry would be sued into oblivion — so there are significant financial resources behind proving they are bad for you. Anyone who can do it would be an overnight billionaire). Many have tried. Nobody has succeeded. The science on artificial sweeteners being safe is solid, and the results are clear.

Again, this is probably the most studied substance in human history. It’s not going to give you cancer.

3) So they’re healthy?

Probably not.

While I certainly won’t argue that artificial sweeteners are good for you (I can’t imagine why they would be healthy).. I will STRONGLY argue that we KNOW they do not cause any long-term, permanent damage. (At least as well as science know anything).

Are there other short-term, less significant problems with artificial sweeteners?  Quite possibly! For example..

4) In SOME PEOPLE, artificial sweeteners do seem to slow down or block weight loss.

There ARE studies that show in about 10% of the population, consuming artificial sweeteners seems to slow or block fat burn.

If you are struggling to lose weight, and you consume a lot of diet-soda, it may be worth trying to eliminate it for a few weeks to see if it makes a difference. You may well be in the 10% group that is affected.

There is SOME (very early) evidence that these artificial sweeteners may be affected gut-microbes in some people, and this  may be the case. But the science on this is just too new. We just don’t know.

That said — even if you’re a “ten percenter”, once you get into maintenance mode, diet soda is likely going to be fine.

5) Don’t confuse artificial sweeteners with sugar alcohols

Sugar alcohols, such are stevia, xylitol, etc. are typically not artificial at all. (Most are natural). They are digested and processed by the body VERY differently, and they have their own pros and cons. You can read more about sugar alcohols, here.

Conclusion?

IF YOU CAN.. it’s obviously advisable to remove diet-soda from your diet completely. But it’s not completely necessary. If you choose to keep it in your food rotation, I recommend limiting your diet-soda intake to 2-3 cans of soda per week … 1 a day at the VERY most. Use it as a treat or a way to reward yourself.

Artificial sweeteners are also a valuable way to get some sense of “normalcy” in your diet.  Things like sugar-free chocolate syrup, sugar-free jello, and even most protein bars and protein shakes are artificially sweetened. It’s a great way to give yourself a “treat” without the weight-loss-killing effects of sugar.

If you’re trying to lose a significant amount of weight, and artificial sweeteners help you get there by keeping you sane, or keeping foods you love in your diet… FOR ME… I say the trade-off is probably worth it (assuming you’re not in the “blocks fat burn” category, of course).

My philosophy? Losing weight is hard enough as it is.. If there’s a way to be as comfortable and as happy as possible during weight-loss, it’s probably not a bad idea.. and once you reach the weight you want to be — THEN you can re-evaluate whether or not artificial sweeteners are worth the trade-off as it relates to your OVERALL health.

But for me? For weight loss? Sucralose and other artificial sweeteners are a VALUABLE TOOL!