Artificial sweeteners – they were meant to help with weight loss and cause no harm! Hmmmmm – The current issues with artificial sweeteners lies in the incorrect assumptions that surrounded their initial creation and manufacture. In reality they enabled large corporations to profit enormously at our expense. Even more annoyingly, Canadian, and U.S health agencies continue to claim that artificial sweeteners are safe in the amounts typically consumed, the hard science suggests otherwise.
Sucralose (Splenda), Saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low), Aspartame (NutraSweet), Acesulfame Potassium (Sweet One) were all developed to reduce calorie intake and blood sugar levels compared to regular sugar. The reasoning being that this would result in weight loss and greater well being for the users of the product if all other calories in the diet remained the same.
Weight Gain Effects
At the point in history when these products were being developed scientists only looked at weight gain through the lens of the “calories in” “calories out” model. The theory being that a calorie is a calorie is a calorie and as long as you eat less calories the slimmer you will become.
This simplistic model was turned on its head once the effects of insulin and cortisol were factored into the weight gain equation and scientists measured the impact of certain foods on weight management. It turns out that a calorie is not a calorie after all (Intensive Dietary Management, 2017).
Science was so focused on blood sugar levels that it failed to notice the impact of these sweeteners on our insulin levels. Just as in the case of dairy consumption, it is possible to spike insulin with some foods without seeing any accompanying spike in blood sugar. This leads to a false sense of security. Why? Because Insulin is THE fat storage hormone (Cell Metabolism, 2012). If you eat artificial sweeteners throughout the day you will raise your insulin levels all day and you will store fat all day. The other issue is that the type of sweetness delivered by these products send messages to the brain that further drive our sweetness urges (Neuroscience, 2010).
Negative Impact on Gut Microbiome
Research published in Frontiers of Physiology 2017 showed that that the artificial sweetener sucralose perturbed the microbiome by altering the developmental dynamics of the gut microbiome. We also know that a healthy microbiome is linked to our mental health and when it is out of balance it may increase our risk of depression. Altering of the gut bacteria is also in part responsible for the glucose intolerance associated with the use of these products (Endocrine Connections, 2015: Nature, 2014).
Negative Metabolic Outcomes
Artificial sweeteners have been linked to abdominal obesity; insulin resistance; impaired glucose tolerance; abnormally elevated fats in the blood and high blood pressure; increased risk of type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome (Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism, 2013); (Gut Microbes, 2015).
Increased Stroke and Dementia Risk
Health data analyzed from nearly 3,000 adults wo had filled out diet surveys and determined their incidence of stroke or dementia over 10 years showed that when compared to non diet soda drinkers those who drank at least one diet soda per day were three times more likely to develop dementia and strokes.
Increased Cancer Risk
In 2016 a Study on mice published in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health showed a definite increase in cancer, specifically leukemia due to Splenda intake. This prompted the CSPI – The Center for Science in the Public Interest to downgrade Splenda from its “safe” category to one of “caution”. Not surprisingly Splenda tried to save its tarnished imaged on this by hiring Monsanto’s PR Firm. It appears that birds of a feather really do flock together.