sweet talk: 10 reasons to avoid artificial sweeteners

i think we probably all have fallen victim to artificial sweeteners, or at least to some sort of false marketing. years ago, i used to be the queen of splenda as i thought it would be a great way to reduce my calorie intake. welp, i was wrong. it took a little research to find the truth behind artificial sweeteners, but i hope the tid-bit that i share with you today well help answer a few of the questions most people have about using them.

artificial sweeteners

{sweet talk}

10 reasons to avoid artificial sweeteners

1. laboratory made. sucralose (splenda) was actually discovered while trying to create a new insecticide. splenda is made when sugar is treated with trityl chloride, acetic anhydride, hydrogen chlorine, thionyl chloride, and methanol in the presence of dimethylformamide, 4-methylmorpholine, toluene, methyl isobutyl ketone, acetic acid, benzyltriethlyammonium chloride, and sodium methoxide. whew!

2. stevia's effects. though still being researched, stevia has at least one compound which has been converted in the laboratory into a known carcinogen (cancer causing). in the laboratory, it has been shown to cause testicular abnormalities and reduced testosterone levels in males and causes females to give birth to both fewer and smaller offspring.

3. headaches. some people experience increased headaches while using artificial sweeteners. cut out the diet coke and see if your headaches disappear.

4. increased appetite. artificial sweeteners lead to an increased appetite and food intake in some people. since artificial sweeteners are often substantially sweeter than sugar, risk for increased appetite and food consumption runs even higher when vast amounts of the sweeteners are consumed.

5. artificial sweeteners confuse your brain. the enzymes in your mouth begin a cascade that primes your cell receptors for an insulin surge, and when it doesn’t arrive your brain feels cheated.

6. your health. people who use artificial sweeteners are heavier, more likely to have diabetes, and more likely to be insulin-resistant compared with nonusers.

7. aspartame. over the years of its use, aspartame has been blamed for cancer, lupus and multiple sclerosis and some studies indicate cancer in rodents from lifelong use of low doses of aspartame.

8. weight gain. artificial sweeteners have not been shown to promote weight loss, and some studies show that the sweet taste may actually cause more craving of sweets. if you are trying to loose weight, you should avoid artificial sweeteners.

9. decreased serotonin. several studies show that consumption of aspartame can lead to excess levels of phenylalanine (an amino acid that is safe in small doses). that means decreased levels of serotonin in the brain which can lead to depression, anxiety or panic attacks.

10. increased insulin. acesulfame potassium, aka ACK, sweet one, and sunett stimulates insulin secretion, which could cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). it has created lung, breast, thymus gland, and other tumors in rats, as well as leukemia and respiratory disease even in small doses. it is found in baked goods, frozen desserts, candy, drinks, cough drops, and breath mints.

now i know, much of this was awfully scientific. and to further the confusion, most research ends with a disclaimer about how inconclusive it is. my point is, if there is this much debate, uncertainty and probable concern about something- why should i risk it? i would rather err on the side of caution and stick to natural sweeteners.

what is a natural sweetener? things like honey, juice concentrates, dates & raisins, molasses & of course real sugar are delicious and wholesome.

research and recommended reading: artificial sweeteners, artificial sweeteners by the nat'l cancer institute, artificial sweeteners by livestrong, sugar substitutes, artificial sweeteners and diabetes

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  • Dang, I thought stevia was a good idea. Oh well.

    Another natural sweetener you can use is a kind of date syrup (dates, I hate ’em, but this is good, trust me!). You just get a glass jar, fill it halfway with dates -like the pitted ones that come in the foil packages- and then cover the dates with water. Jab them with a fork a few times and let them sit in the fridge. Every morning and evening open the fridge and give the jar a good shake. After the first day of letting them sit, you can use the liquid as a kind of syrup sweetener for tea, in oatmeal, etc. It sounds gross, but it’s actually really tasty! (and I hate dates too, so there you go!)

  • I am guilty as charged. I love diet dr pepper. A few of the things you mentioned ring home to me. I’d like to cut down and eventually stop. Can you do a post of withdraw next? :)

  • only real sugar for this household (OK, one exception, my hubby loves diet pop, blah)…and on a side note…that ant in the ad to the right is freaking me out! it worked though…I’m off to see what it’s all about…

  • I like the date idea … would have never thought of that! Thanks for the informative post. I’m personally a little suspicious of the process regular “white” sugar goes through to become white. I always try to read labels because sometimes there are even extra ingredients added to help sugar (or salt) not clump and to help it pour smoothly. Seems like the closer you can get anything to it’s natural source, the better.

  • Wow i had no idea about the splenda. I use it all the time.
    I buy my honey from a neighbor who has his own beehives
    I will srart buying molasses too
    Thanks for the info

  • YES YES YES!!! Thank you for posting this. I get into discussions ALL the time with people who think they are getting fewer calories so it is better for them. Wrongo-dongo!!

  • This is really good information. I used to be all about diet pop, but after giving it up during pregnancy, I haven’t been able to handle the taste of artificial sweeteners since.

    I really want to stop ingesting artificial sweeteners altogether, but it will be really hard for me to give up light yogurt. I did find one delicious yogurt sweetened naturally with maple syrup, but it is just so thick – hard to get used to!

    And thanks for the information about stevia. I hadn’t tried it yet, but was going to look into it – now I know for sure to avoid it.

  • Artificial sweeteners= bad. I totally agree..

    but I have a bit of a problem with the Stevia reason. “stevia has at least one compound which has been converted in the laboratory into a known carcinogen (cancer causing).” I think it would be fairly easy to convert just about anything into a carcinogen with a lab full of instruments. There are trace amounts of carcinogens when I burn the popcorn (every time. never fails.)

    until it’s converting a compound into a carcinogen in my digestive system, I wouldn’t be in a hurry to lump it together with known poisons like aspertame, saccharin & sucralose. Stevia is used throughout the world and has been used by Latin & South American natives for generations to sweeten mate. It’s from the chrysanthemum family. It’s not some magic poison extracted in a secret lair somewhere.

    I would hate for some people to be afraid to try something that might be helpful to them. The back & forth with the FDA is all politics (as most drug & food regulation is in this country.) The Natural Food Industry had no choice but to compromise with the artificial sweetener & sugar lobbyists on how the FDA would bring down their mighty hammer to keep stevia on the market. They have been allowed to use it freely if it is marked as a food additive for years but the minute they call it a sweetener, it was a problem.

    I hope this doesn’t come off preachy, I just figure that there are worse “natural” alternatives (calorically & with a high glycemic index) and with the diabetes epidemic so prevalent these days, people need all the information they can get to make their own choices

    • hi becky! thank you so much for your input and comment, i really appreciate it!

      i would say that stevia is definitely one of the safest alternatives to natural sweeteners (sugar, honey, etc) but it’s still considered an artificial sweetener. for me (and that’s just me!) there is enough controversy about it that i’m just don’t want to risk it. even the wikipedia stevia page discusses all the back and forth about potential risks, lab results and of course, the fda’s issues with it- but i agree that the fda is terribly political. i used to use stevia but after all the back and forth, i decided to go back to the tried and true most natural sweeteners.

      i really do appreciate your input, as i can tell you’re well educated on the subject. i’m sure readers will find it very helpful! love, bonnie

  • I have asthma and have found that i get weezy whenever i consume a product with sweetners in it! Not great if you’re on a diet either….thanks for sharing the info

  • I just talked this STEVIA thing thru with my hubbie – he usually has to sit thru my rants (grin). Look at it this way please.
    If you are a type II diabetic and are on doctor prescribed medications to keep your insulin from spiking, then of course you will have HYPO’s if you were to change from using sugar/honey/hfcs etc, and switich to using stevia as your sweetner of choice, while at the same time taking your prescribed medications.

    The FDA and your diabetes clinic and your doctor will want you on prescribed medications for life – there is money to be made in keeping you sick!

    So IF you you do the right thing, and take control of your own illness, and switch to using stevia etc, you will need to reduce the amount of prescription drugs you take, because your insulin will not be spiking so high after a meal. Carbohydrates cause your insulin to spike… less carbs less sopikes less medication required, less money the docs make! how sad……. yes I am a cynic.

  • I also meant to post this link for you to read….. Sometimes I shake my head at the deniers logic!

    BTW I have cut my daily sugar consumption by 50% by using 1 tesp of glucose with the = amount of Stevia….. so would be two tsp of sugar but now is only 1

    I eat 99% home cooked no gluten no dairly no grains other than rice……
    I have a salicylate sensitivity so have to be esp careful of what foods I do consume.

    READ THIS http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/wellbeing/how-hard-can-it-be-to-cut-sugar-20100630-zmvt.html?comments=39#comments

  • I am allergic to artificial sweetners. They make me violently ill. I once drank a diet pepsi and vomited for 2 days. So I ask, I am trying to take on a healthier diet. I love to eat yogurt. All the diet tips about yogurt tell you to eat light yogurt. It contains arti-sweets. So is there a low sugar, low fat, low calorie alternative? Yogurt has so much protein and calcium. I want all those good things, but without all that sugar. what do you suggest.

    • hi cady! good question! i’m actually vegan, so i don’t eat yogurt, but would highly suggest getting your protein from plant foods like soybeans and quinoa (both are complete proteins, like meat), tempeh, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds. you can also get more than enough calcium through calcium-rich plant foods such as tofu, sesame seeds, beans, collard greens, kale, molasses, and fortified nondairy milks. when in doubt, i always go for the shortest ingredient list possible, and whole foods only have one! :) if you just love yogurt, i would suggest checking out so delicious’ coconut yogurts- they are non-dairy and free of artificial sweeteners. YUM! http://sodeliciousdairyfree.com/products/coconut-milk-yogurts/blueberry

  • regarding yoghurt. I am OMNIVORE so have no vegan leanings, but do eat vegetables and fruits. I have a salicylate sensitivity, cannot touch soy, legumes and lactose…. but make my own yoghurt which is fermented for 24 hours. Essentially that uses up all the milk sugar – lactose so I can consume it. I do not avoid animal fats I do avoid transfats and manufactured fats like canola, soy etc. The fat is bad mantra is being proven wrong wrong wrong each and every day…. carbs as in simple carbs are the real problem and fats are needed for your health. JMHO

  • So what would you advise for people already diabetic to use as sweeteners? Using “natural sweeteners” is definitely not a suitable substitute for them.

    • hi christine! i’m not an expert on diabetes so i can’t really speak to your question. all i know is that the side effects from artificial sweeteners can be pretty severe, and i would avoid them if at all possible. maybe you could ask your doctor and get back to us? :)

  • Can you please clarify something for me? By stevia, do you mean the type you buy from the store in little packets, or do you mean just original plain ground green leaf stevia that was homegrown? (such as described in the link below): http://snapshotsofgodsgrace.wordpress.com/2012/01/25/healthy-living-green-leaf-stevia/
    I would really appreciate a response, I am trying to learning to eat healthier and live a wise life! :) Thanks so much! ~Alison

    • hey alison! i’m no expert and am not really positive about the difference between the two. in this post however, i guess i was referring to the stevia in packets? :)