June 27, 2013

A Dietitian's Opinion on Artificial Sweeteners

As a dietitian, I often get asked about my opinion on artificial sweeteners. There are many different studies out there currently and the effects of artificial sweeteners are not completely known. There have been ideas that consuming artificial sweeteners may be linked to cancer, weight gain and other health problems. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, it is their position that people can safely consume sweeteners as part of a healthy diet. The Food and Drug Administration generally recognizes these sweeteners as safe as well. These artificial sweeteners are tested many ways including toxicology in animals and determining the side effects related to consuming these sweeteners.

My opinion, however, has changed drastically in the last 5 years or so on these sweeteners. Back in college, I used artificial sweeteners often. I wanted to cut calories and thought that this was a good way to do so. It started with about half a packet of sweetener and gradually increased to a couple of packets per serving. I was drinking about 3 beverages such as tea, coffee, Crystal Light and diet pop containing these sweeteners.

Did you know that artificial sweetener is up to 800x sweeter than sugar depending on the brand? Using artificial sweetener in my case made me become used to food and drinks being very, very sweet. Then, when I would have foods that are naturally sweet, I did not think that they were sweet enough. I found myself craving sugar more and more often. I was bloated all of the time. I found myself constantly hungry and craving foods even if I was full (this is not necessarily related to the artificial sweeteners but I think it may be).
It took a long time for me to realize that artificial sweeteners were not a good option for me. What I did was slowly wean myself off of these sweeteners by cutting them down slowly. It was hard at first since drinks like tea tasted bitter but I now do not use any sort of sweetener in my tea and coffee for the most part. This was hard at first but your taste buds really do adjust to the new lack of sweetener in foods.

When baking, I now use less sugar than the recipe calls for but do not usually use artificial sweetener. Every so often, I will add about 1/3 of a pack of artificial sweetener to my coffee if it seems bitter but this is probably only once per month. I rarely drink any pop now and do so maybe once every 2-3 months.
I feel a lot better now that I have eliminated artificial sweeteners from my diet. I do not crave sugar as much. I enjoy the natural flavors of food more. I am not bloated as much which was a big issue for me.

Overall, I am not completely against artificial sweeteners but for me, they are not the best choice. For diabetics who need to limit their sugar intake, using artificial sweeteners can be a decent option. I would not recommend that they use multiple packets of artificial sweetener though because as for me, it increased my sugar cravings and made me want all foods to be sweeter.


What is your opinion on artificial sweeteners? Do you use them? If not, what do you use to sweeten your food/beverages?

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  1. artificial sweetener do make me hungry. I don't use them

  2. Yes, I remember students asking my professors in college about this all of the time in our nutrition classes. It is a very interesting topic that needs more causation-focused research and less epidemiological research. Many of the studies on this subject look at the amount of artificial sweetener consumed and then the body composition, cancer prevalence or type 2 diabetes incidences. If you think about it though, this is not enough variables to consider. One reason is that people who suffer from obesity or that view themselves as overweight often turn to these sweeteners for weight loss, and since being obese or overweight is related to cancer, type two diabetes and cardiovascular disease, there is a large potential skew in the results. I think this is a large gap in the literature. Regardless, there is something wrong about artificial sweeteners or else they would work better in the battle against obesity. Something is missing in the satiation aspect of these sweeteners. Like you said, they often just leave you craving more and more. I learned in some journal review in college that part of the cravings may be due to insulin being released that is never taken up by the cells since there is no glucose for it to bind. Its always so tempting to try out artificial replacements such as olestra or aspartame, and often it turns out that it is better to just stick with the original nutrient that mother nature provides us with. As I, and most likely you, always say, balance is key!

    I will stop my ranting now. Nice post!

  3. I know I cut out diet sodas almost a year ago because of all the artificial ingredients. I still use some Spenda, but not too much. I do feel much better without the sodas.

    1. Good for you! Glad you cut out diet soda. I still have one about once every other month as a treat.

  4. I cut out artificial sweeteners this past year and I have NEVER felt better! Once in a while, I will have some stevia in the raw with tea, but I drink water for everything else. Except for my morning Zija drink (which you should definitely email me about! Girl it will CHANGE your life, AND you can earn extra money with it) It's an all natural drink that gives you all the nutrients your body needs.

    email me at fitness_fanatic_007 AT hotmail.com


  5. Good post. I think they can be useful in moderation but the word 'artificial' should explain it all.


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