Are artificial sweeteners evil?
It is a debate that has been going on for decades.
Oddly enough, the word ‘artificial’ creates hostility on its own. Many people associate ‘artificial’ with something bad. You know what is artificial? Flying on a plane and getting to the other side of the world in 16 hours or less. Driving a car. Eating cereal that came in a printed, pre-packaged box. Having a skin graft or a lung transplant. Taking medicine. Having a blog.
Are half of these things bad? No. But they don’t have the word ‘artificial’ in them, so they seem less likely to be misconstrued. Call it ‘artificial transport’ and then see what people say after a few years. Probably either hostility defending it, or a lot more people choosing to walk.
However, I digress. I must admit to being the neutral party when it comes to the actual subject matter. I believe artificial sweeteners are both good and bad.
They can help with weight loss and blood pressure reduction. Alternatively, though, so can reducing your sugar intake. I would call it a moot point, then, but do acknowledge the fact that they can indeed help dieters with poor impulse control when it comes to sweets. This may be a good thing for those with a risk of diabetes.
The aspartame -> brain tumour ‘link’ is likely a fallacy. There were simply not enough potential causes isolated to garner it a real concern.
Sucralose is proven safe to consume, even in ridiculous amounts. A packet of Splenda contains 12mg of sucralose. Scientists were having subjects safely consume up to 500mg per day (that’s 41.6 packets in a day!).
Men who drink diet soda instead of regular soda might have a reduced risk of heart disease. However, this seems to depend on other factors as well, so I wouldn’t call it the be-all end-all to your current soda habit.
They might actually make you more hungry. Artificial sweeteners have no effect on ghrelin, the hormone that makes us hungry. Real sugars, however, can reduce it; making us less hungry. Marginally so, but still enough for a statistical difference.
They might cause you to eat more fat. They are also not very useful when it comes to people who aren’t dieting, as they will usually end up ‘eating back’ the ‘missing’ calories later in the day.
Artificial sweeteners mixed with alcohol cause you to get drunk more quickly than their sugar-sweetened counterparts. Why is this bad? Those who ‘go big or go home’, or are known to start a party with a rapid succession of alcohol consumption may be at higher risk of alcohol toxicity without even knowing it. In fact, this effect may be even worse when caffeine is added, such as in the case of mixing diet cola and alcohol.
There is also some evidence that those who regularly consume artificial sweeteners may not feel as satisfied when they consume real sugars, causing them to over-indulge. They may even lose interest in less-sweet foods that may be necessary for good health.
There are other things out there to discuss as well, such as how they purportedly increase incidences in cancer. However, I did not find any studies concrete enough about that for me to feel worthy of linking. There is still a lot of controversy about it, even in the scientific world, it seems. I suppose we’ll just have to wait to find out more.
So should you consume artificial sweeteners or not?
Well, that is completely up to you.
As noted by my introduction post, I believe in moderation. I think they’re fine, but I prefer having them in foods where they’re already mixed in – I still use sugar in recipes. When I consume artificial sweeteners in ‘regular’ foods, my preferences are varied. I might put a packet of sucralose-based sweetener in my oatmeal every couple weeks, because stevia can taste like vomit to me (at least in oatmeal .. oddly enough, I am fine with using it in hot chocolate or smoothies). I use both sucralose and stevia-sweetened protein powders equally enough. When it comes to sodas, I prefer sugar alcohols. They seem to make me crave less sweet stuff afterwards, compared to acesulfame-potassium. That is just me, though. You could be completely different in your preferences, and I am a-okay with that.
Whatever you do, just make sure not to over-do it. That goes with both sugar and artificial sweeteners; as both have their upsides and downsides.