Artificial sweeteners - should you fake it or leave it?

Updated: May 18, 2019

Sweeteners mimic the flavour of sugar but not the calorie content. Artificial sweeteners are up to 600 times sweeter than your average table sugar. The six most common sweeteners on the market include: sucralose, stevia, acesulfame potassium, saccharin, aspartame and sodium cyclamate.


It is no secret that the overconsumption of sugar can increase the risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers and tooth decay. It is accepted that a reduction in sugar consumption is a strategy for weight management. So, artificial sweeteners are the solution to resolving obesity, type 2 diabetes and tooth decay – right?





Body weight

Some people use artificial sweeteners and products containing artificial sweeteners to help them curb sugar cravings – however there is some evidence that artificial sweeteners may increase appetite. This may be due to artificial sweeteners tricking the body into thinking that it is getting calories when it is not; therefore you remain unsatisfied.


Some research suggests that the more artificial sweeteners you consume the higher your tolerance to sweetness becomes, meaning that you require more sweetness to satisfy your cravings which can lead to overconsumption of calories.


There is also some belief that some people tend to eat more following the consumption of artificial sweeteners as they feel they have earned it as they have made a healthier choice. However, the research in this area remains inconclusive.


However, there is not enough conclusive evidence to confirm the above; some people may find that artificial sweeteners work for them when they are trying to manage their weight and others may not.


Diabetes

Well actually, there is research to suggest that artificial sweeteners may actually increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This is believed to be due the response of the gut microbiome following the consumption of artificial sweeteners.


However, for those living with type 2 diabetes extensive research shows that artificial sweeteners do not raise blood sugar levels and are safe alternatives to sugar that you can include into your diet.


To conclude, there is not enough good quality evidence to make definitive conclusions and find causal relationships regarding the use of artificial sweeteners. I would not worry about the occasional consumption of foods containing artificial sweeteners as these are considered safe. However, the consumption of artificial sweeteners does not offer any health benefit, and the evidence so far suggests that it does not assist in weight loss.


However, some people may report that artificial sweeteners assist in cravings management and weight control. Regardless, it will be more beneficial to practice consuming foods containing natural sweeteners such as honey or lemon juice in moderation; as you may find these satisfy your cravings better.

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