How bad are artificial sweeteners?
Artificial sweeteners, also known as sugar substitutes or non-nutritive sweeteners, are substances used to provide a sweet taste to food and beverages without adding significant calories or affecting blood sugar levels.
They are chemically synthesized by chemists in laboratories.
In the 1980s, a trend emerged: the widespread use of these synthetic sweeteners in food and industrial drinks. Why?
Because they are the best way to replace sugar to reduce calories at the lowest cost. That’s exactly what big food companies were looking for in response to the massive outbreak of diabetes, obesity, and other diseases of civilization mainly caused by selling their junk food.
Type of artificial sweeteners
Many exist, here are just a few:
Aspartame is approximately 200 times sweeter than sugar. Chemically, aspartame is composed of two amino acids: aspartic acid and phenylalanine. It is widely used in sugar-free or low-calorie products such as diet sodas, powdered drink mixes, tabletop sweeteners, chewing gum, and some food items labeled as “sugar-free” or “diet.”
Sucralose is approximately 600 times sweeter than sugar. Chemically, sucralose is a modified form of sugar. Its chemical structure is created by substituting three hydroxyl groups (-OH) on the sugar molecule with chlorine atoms (-Cl). One of the advantages of sucralose is its stability at high temperatures, making it suitable for use in baked goods and products that undergo heat processing. It can retain its sweetness even during prolonged exposure to heat.
Saccharin was the first commercially available artificial sweetener. It is approximately 200-700 times sweeter than sugar. Chemically, saccharin is a white, crystalline powder with the chemical name 1,1-dioxo-1,2-benzothiazol-3-one. Saccharin gained popularity as a sugar substitute during times when sugar was scarce, such as during World War I and II.
Acesulfame potassium, also known as Acesulfame K or Ace-K, is approximately 200 times sweeter than sugar. Chemically, acesulfame potassium is a potassium salt composed of the organic acid known as 6-methyl-1,2,3-oxathiazine-4(3H)-one 2,2-dioxide. It is a white, crystalline powder that is soluble in water.
Neotame is derived from the dipeptide structure of aspartame. It has been modified to make it significantly sweeter and more stable than aspartame. It is approximately 7,000 to 13,000 times sweeter than sugar.
Chemically, cyclamate is the sodium or calcium salt of cyclamic acid. It is an odorless, crystalline powder that is around 30-50 times sweeter than sugar. Cyclamate gained popularity as a sweetener in the mid-20th century and was widely used in diet sodas, tabletop sweeteners, and other low-calorie products. Today, cyclamate is banned in the US but is still used in other parts of the world.
Advantame is a high-intensity sweetener, meaning it provides sweetness at very low concentrations. Derived chemically from aspartame, advantame is approximately 20,000 times sweeter than sugar, making it one of the most intensely sweet artificial sweeteners available.
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Toxicity of artificial sweeteners
All artificial sweeteners are toxic to our bodies.
This is confirmed by a meta-analysis finding no benefits to the regular consumption of sweeteners, but an increase in obesity and other metabolic diseases.
But why are we using artificial sweeteners in the first place? Apart from the fact that they are the cheapest solution to replace sugar, it is also a formidable way to avoid talking about the toxicity of industrial food.
Western societies were the first to rush into industrial food, which is toxic and lacks essential nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. This inevitably leads to various diseases like:
- Diabetes type 2
- Cardiovascular diseases
Therefore, the only logical solution is to forbid industrial food production and promote a healthy diet, full of organic food produced by sustainable organic agriculture.
But this simple and effective solution to tackle these diseases of civilization has never been in the business plan of agrochemical multinationals.
For them, the solution had to be commercial, and that’s why artificial sweeteners came along. All they had to do to make it work, is to convince people that the problem with sugar was calories and that if we could sweeten with zero calories, everything would be fine.
This is how people eating junk food and industrial products containing hundreds of additives and pesticides really believed in the benefits of artificial sweeteners.
Sadly for them, not only do those benefits not exist, but they are replaced by problems.
How artificial sweeteners affect the body
Artificial sweeteners are toxic to our bodies in various ways.
Studies are always very cautious in order to avoid offending multinationals about their toxicity. Nevertheless, we notice in the management of patients that are consuming them, that they are not in good health.
It is also perfectly logical to take into account that, in those cases, the overall diet is problematic as well since no one who has a healthy diet consumes artificial sweeteners.
Sweet taste can stimulate the release of insulin even without a rise in blood sugar. Although this is disputed and the mechanisms are not yet elucidated, it sure stimulates appetite.
Normally, the calories provided by healthy sweet foods trigger a natural feeling of satiety, but with industrial food and artificial sweeteners, that will not be the case.
The sweet taste is addictive and calls to consume more sweet taste. If the person consumes white bread, white pasta, white rice, cookies, and other refined products, it will automatically increase their consumption of “bad” sugar, which will accentuate the weight gain and other food-related problems like:
- Food disorders
Aspartame interferes with brain metabolism and impacts our mental health. It is known to have a negative interaction with brain metabolism, people who consume it regularly are more prone to depression and irritability.
One study among many links aspartame consumption to fibromyalgia. Even if the mechanisms are not yet elucidated, it seems logical that these artificial sweeteners can harm the musculoskeletal system of our body.
Our intestinal bacteria are also affected by the chemical molecules they may or may not feed on and how these will change their environment. The interface between the food bolus and the enterocytes is complex and delicate.
In this case, artificial sweeteners will generate dysbiosis that can affect immunity and the proper functioning of the intestine, promoting irritable bowel and intolerances.
To summarize, it is more and more proven that artificial sweeteners are toxic to the body, but we don’t need to wait on colossal amounts of studies and data proving that to ban them.
The simple logic of understanding how and why artificial sweeteners came along is more than enough to understand that they will inevitably be bad and unnecessary for the human diet.
The only way is a healthy diet full of healthy foods rich in essential nutrients, tastes, smells, colors, textures, etc.
In general, there is no need to find alternatives to artificial sweeteners when adopting a healthy diet.
A healthy diet, contrary to industrial junk food, contains the right amount and form of sugar, that is healthy for everyone, including people already suffering from diabetes and obesity.
To understand what is a healthy diet and how to implement it on a daily basis, go check out our articles on the topic or directly subscribe now to access our ebook: “Healthy Food: Your Fundamental Right”.
In addition to that, it’s possible to use, in specific circumstances, natural sweeteners if you want to reduce even more the quantity of sugar. For that, you have the possibility to use two great sources of natural sweeteners:
- Monk fruit
It is also known as Luo Han Guo or Siraitia grosvenorii, is a small, round fruit native to southern China. Monk fruit is used in Traditional Chinese medicine for different health properties on top of its culinary use as a natural sweetener.
It is a general word regrouping about 240 different species of aromatic herbs, a few of them containing natural sweeteners.
Stevia rebaudiana, the most common specie rich in natural sweeteners, is native to South America. It has been used for centuries by indigenous populations in Paraguay and Brazil as a sweetening agent by infusing the leaves or eating them fresh.
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