So what’s the big deal about artificial sweeteners? Could a sprinkle of this and a dash of that really be that dangerous? In a word— yes.
First, switching from sugar to an artificial sweetener doesn’t diminish your intake of sweets. This is a common misconception because it takes less of most artificial sweeteners to get the same sweet flavor you’d get from using sugar. A number of studies have shown that ingestion of artificial sweeteners may actually lead to increased food or calorie intake, likely because artificial sweeteners cause your body to produce insulin by making it think sugar is on the way. It’s no secret the percentage of overweight Americans has increased over the past few years. The skyrocketing numbers parallel the use of artificial sweeteners.
Also known as Equal or NutraSweet, aspartame is one of the most popular artificial sweeteners.
What is it?
A chemical compound. When ingested and metabolized, aspartame breaks down into several chemicals— aspartic acid, phenylalanine, methanol and eventually formaldehyde and formic acid.
The truth is that this science experiment-gone-wrong is believed to deplete the body’s supply of chromium, a trace mineral known to play a crucial role in sugar metabolism, controlling blood sugar regulation. Insufficient chromium in the body can lead to insulin inefficiency which leads to insulin resistance or carbohydrate intolerance. A component in aspartame, phenylalanine, also blocks production of serotonin. When this neurotransmitter is out of order, it leads to other imbalances in the body causing a multitude of health challenges. Serotonin also helps control food cravings which is why lack of serotonin leads to sugar and carb cravings.
Also known as Splenda, sucralose is 600 times as sweet as table sugar.
What is it?
Made by chlorinating sugar— you heard me right, the same chemical found in your swimming pool— sucralose contains phenylalanin, aspartic acid and methyl alcohol. When sucralose is mixed with maltodextrin and dextrose (both made from corn), you get the product we know as Splenda.
One staggering, and commonly unrecognized, effect of sucralose on your body is that it can destroy up to 50% of the good bacteria in your intestines. That balance of good bacteria is crucial for maintaining good immune health and digestion, especially for people who don’t have a health intake of probiotics. Another effect sucralose can have is simply hanging around in your body, long after it is ingested. Research shows your body can’t recognize the unnatural combination of chemicals and therefore can’t process it properly. This is, unfortunately, the grounds for the claim that this sweetener “contains no calories”. It does contain calories but they aren’t absorbed into your body, therefore they aren’t effective in your caloric intake.
Also known as Sweet n’ Low, saccharine can be 200-700 times sweeter than regular sucrose or white sugar.
What is it?
A scientist working on coal-tar derivatives discovered the sweet substance and saccharine was born! (Yes coal and tar. Red flags, right?) Its petroleum roots explain the slightly metallic aftertaste most people report.
Like the other artificial sweeteners, saccharine triggers the body’s insulin response even though it remains undigested. Your body senses sugar, releases insulin, with nowhere for it to go. This leads to increased appetite as well as other reactions, some of which include blurred vision, headaches, anxiety, mood swings and loss of energy.
Get our Top 10 Tips for cutting out the sugar in your diet…without turning to these sneaky-sweeteners, who aren’t so sweet after all!