Living With

Artificial Sweeteners: Yay or Nay?

Yumhee Park Oct 9th, 2014 (updated Oct 7th, 2015)
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There’s a lot of debate surrounding the pros and cons of using artificial sweeteners especially when living with diabetes. Recent research has shown that the use of artificial sweeteners could actually contribute to weight gain and diabetes. Here are some highlights and things to know about this development

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Glucose intolerance
Glucose intolerance

According to the recently published research, scientists found that prolonged consumption of zero calorie sweeteners yielded significant increased risk of glucose intolerance, a condition that can lead to diabetes. It also triggered higher blood-sugar levels suggesting an adverse effect in managing diabetes.

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Gut bacteria
Gut bacteria

These adverse effects are suspected to occur because consumption of these sweeteners might be interfering with bacteria in the gut, which has been shown to play an integral part of proper bodily functions. The study showed that when comparing the gut bacteria of people who had consumed artificial sweeteners and people who had not, the bacteria were significantly different from each other.

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Risk of obesity and cancer
Risk of obesity and cancer

The changes in gut bacteria may explain the risks artificial sweeteners carry in terms of contributing to weight gain. Additionally, in 1977, the FDA attempted to ban saccharin, a sweetener more popularly known as Sweet n’ Low, because of the development of bladder cancer in rats after they received high doses of the sweetener.

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“Health” foods that are not so healthy
“Health” foods that are not so healthy

So what does this all mean for you? Take a closer look at the labels of your go-to quick snacks. Breakfast cereals, instant oatmeal, popcorn, some flavored yogurts, and granola bars may contain an assortment of artificial sweeteners while boasting whole grain benefits. If possible, make your own bars or popcorn or make sure to really analyze the labels to see where the sweetness comes from. 

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Artificial sweetener alternatives
Artificial sweetener alternatives

Although there are also debates about how healthy “natural” sweeteners are, benefits do exist in consuming non-chemical sweeteners such as honey, agave nectar, and molasses. Not as much is needed to satisfy a sweet tooth and there are some health benefits to certain natural sweeteners. Other ones to research that are not widely known but have been recommended are Stevia and Lo han.