How harmful are artificial sweeteners?

Millions of people use a variety of artificial sweeteners every day to sweeten foods and beverages, so just how safe are they?

Since we’re not here to sugar coat the realities, let’s just down to it. Those who benefit the most from using artificial sweeteners are diabetics and the obese. Diabetics benefit because artificial sweeteners do not raise blood glucose levels, which table sugar does immediately after consumption.

The obese benefit from using low-cal artificial sweeteners to reduce their daily calorie intake. While doctors, dieticians and researchers mostly agree that artificial sweeteners are not necessarily a health hazard, they do caution against some more-so than others.

The biggest concern about people who rely on artificial sweeteners is that they can cause you to crave more sweet foods and prevent you from associating sweet with calories. They also worry that consuming that constant level of heightened sweetness will put you off on naturally healthy sweet foods like fruit and instead, you’ll consume more artificially flavored foods with less nutritional value.

Studies have also linked artificial sweeteners with a higher risk of glucose intolerance, a precursor to prediabetes and diabetes.

Are artificial sweeteners bad for weight loss? According to a report from the UK, there have been suggestions that artificial sweeteners may stimulate appetite and play a role in weight gain and obesity, however, research is inconsistent with little long-term evidence to show that sweeteners cause weight gain. More research is needed.

What is the safest artificial sweetener to use for diabetics? Well, the FDA has approved eight artificial sweeteners: Neotame, Saccharin, Aspartame, Acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), Sucralose, Advantame, Luo Han Guo fruit extracts and Steviol glycosides. One of the preferred sweeteners by some health professionals is stevia, a low calorie sweetener.

A 2016 study showed that dried stevia leaf powder significantly lowered blood sugar levels in people with diabetes as well as a reduction in triglyceride and cholesterol levels, concluding that stevia is safe for people to use in moderate quantities.

According to one doctor, “The worst of the worst is aspartame, which caused cancer in three independent animal studies.”

This truly does leave us wondering are artificial sweeteners worse than sugar? According to a doctor associated with Harvard Health, “Sugar-containing foods in their natural form, whole fruit, for example, tend to be highly nutritious—nutrient-dense, high in fiber, and low in glycemic load.

On the other hand, refined, concentrated sugar consumed in large amounts rapidly increases blood glucose and insulin levels, increases triglycerides, inflammatory mediators and oxygen radicals, and with them, the risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other chronic illnesses.”