Excessive sugar consumption is now recognized as being a major contributor to increasing rates of obesity (1), metabolic syndrome (2), diabetes(3), high cholesterol, heart disease (4, 5, 6), and even cancer (7, 8, 9,10).
In response, many people turn to artificial sweeteners for use in soft drinks, candies, baked goods, ice cream and other sweet foods.
We do not cover the natural low-calorie sweeteners such as stevia, xylitol, erythritol, sorbitol and mannitol in this article.
Artificial Sweeteners and Appetite Regulation
Artificial sweeteners fool our taste buds, but do not activate the same pathways in our brains to trigger the food reward. As a result, cravings for more sugary foods is increased (20).
This decreased activity in the hypothalamus is not seen after consuming aspartame, indicating the food reward pathways have not been as fully activated.
The sweet taste is rewarding, but without the satiety it may be that you continue craving and end up consuming more calories.
Different Types of Artificial Sweeteners
1. Aspartame – (NutraSweet, Equal)
The FDA approved aspartame over 35 years ago. Today it’s found in over 6,000 foods and drinks. It isn’t heat-stable, so is not used in baked foods.
2. Sucralose (Splenda)
Sucralose is 600 times sweeter in sugar. It is used in tabletop sweeteners and a variety of beverages, dairy products, fruits, syrups, and baked goods.
3. Acesulfame K (ACE, Sunette, Sweet ‘N Safe)
Acesulfame K is used in sugar-free chewing gum, candy, dairy products, and alcoholic beverages. It’s also increasingly popular as a “flavor enhancer.”
4. Saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low)
In the 1970s, saccharin was thought to cause bladder cancer. This has since been disproven and the FDA has rescinded warning about it. Currently it’s used to sweeten children’s medications such as chewable aspirin, cough syrup, and other medications.
Increased Sugar Cravings
Opponents of artificial sweeteners sometimes argue that they increase sugar cravings (22).
The reasoning is that the option of a zero calorie diet soda causes people to drink more sodas than if the only option is a sugar filled 200 calorie soda.
There are no calories, and they satisfied their craving, so isn’t that a good thing?
Well, we know that our tastes are trained so we prefer more of things we eat regularly (23).
The more sweets we eat or drink, the more sweets we crave.
Artificial Sweeteners and Metabolic Health
Some studies suggest frequent use of artificial sweeteners actually increase the risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes (26)
One study found that they increased risk of metabolic syndrome by 34% (27).
Another study found that diet sodas increased the risk of type 2 diabetes by 121% (28).
Artificial Sweeteners aid Weight Loss
The largest study tracked 641 children of 4-11 years for 18 months.
Every day at lunch they were given 8 ounces of a high calorie sugary drink or a zero calorie artificially sweetened drink.
Those assigned to the zero calorie drink gained on average 2.2 pounds less than the group that consumed the sugar drink (37).
Artificial Sweeteners might not be as effective in satisfying cravings for sweets, and may even increase the cravings.
They may also contribute to health problems such as leaky gut syndrome, although no definitive proof yet exists.
However, if portions are controlled and they are simply used to replace a sugar filled soda or fruit juice, and do not encourage greater consumption, then artificial sweeteners have a slight positive effect in aiding weight loss.
The weight loss benefits are not overwhelming so the choice of sugar or artificial sweeteners is not critical for weight loss success.
- After being laughed or scoffed at for decades, ever since Dr Atkins popularized it, there are dozens, if not hundreds of different takes on the low carb diet now.
- We’ve been huge fans of Berberine for multiple health benefits. It’s now being included in weight loss products are well.
- Probiotics are much like Berberine – just now becoming known to the mainstream, and also showing promise for weight loss.
- Cumin is very well known as a spice that studies are showing can aid dieters drop a little extra weight.
- Niagen is being called the “God Vitamin” by some for its anti-aging and health regeneration properties.
- The best known diet pill of the last few years is still the king, but so many scammers selling worthless Garcinia Cambogia on Amazon have definitely hurt its reputation.