Artificial Sweeteners: Something for Nothing

This is the first entry in a series on sugars and sweeteners of all kinds – the good, the bad, and the toxic.

People are enticed by the idea of getting something for nothing. Eating and drinking treats sweetened with artificial sweeteners seems like the ultimate have your cake and eat it situation. The operative word here is “seems”.
In this post, I had planned to take a historical approach to sweeteners that were once considered okay, and were then found to be harmful and subsequently banned. My reading showed that the history is more confusing than I imagined. For example, the Canadian government banned saccharin in 1977. The FDA went back and forth, put a warning label on products with saccharin, then removed it. Saccharin is still in use in the U.S. On the other hand, the U.S. banned cyclamates in 1969, but they are still in use in Canada. Go figure.
Personally, I believe it is impossible to get a definitive answer on what damage a particular sweetener causes. One study shows one thing, another study shows the opposite. Some of the largest companies on the planet are lobbying to keep the sweeteners they use legal, so it is never easy to get a substance banned.

So why do I still think you should completely avoid all artificial sweeteners?
Our bodies were designed to eat food
Our bodies expect to be nourished by things like eggs, broccoli, fish or butter, not C6H12NNaO3S or C14H18N2O5 or 7H5NO3S. Enough said.
The cheat doesn’t work
Let’s look at results. If someone said:  “Look, I love my Coke. Can’t give it up. I drink five glasses a day. Let me at least drink diet soda so I don’t get fat,” the theory sounds reasonable at a glance, but a study published in 2008 in Obesity by Sharon P. Fowler shows that this is an illusion.
According to the study carried out on 5,158 adult residents of San Antonio, Texas, subjects who drank diet sodas showed a statistically significant increase in obesity over a ten-year period. [1]

That means the people drinking diet soda gained more weight than the people drinking regular soda – and we know that drinking regular soda isn’t the fast track to weight loss. According to Fowler, "There was a 41% increase in risk of being overweight for every can or bottle of diet soft drink a person consumes each day." Ouch.
Just to be clear, Fowler et al don’t know why this is true. Is the artificial sweetener doing something to the body’s metabolism? Is it a psychological difference – did the people think they were getting something for nothing, so felt they could also eat an extra piece of cake? It isn’t clear. What is clear to me is that tricky ways of getting around eating real food don’t seem to work.

What's been your experience with artificial sweeteners?

Also in this series:

All About Honey

High Fructose Corn Syrup

White Sugar
This post was shared on Kelly the Kitchen Kop.


Christy said...

I believe it ruined my health - I was naturally thin, even underweight until I was 21 and I gained a little weight - went on my first diet and have doubled my weight since that time (I am 45). I quit all diet foods about a year ago - but I fear I have ruined my metabolism and my health.

Ruth @ Ruth's Real Food said...

It's especially sad that people eat diet foods, thinking they're being good, while it actually damages their health.

I do believe that real food can heal, but often it takes a lot of experimentation to find what is right for a particular person. I hope you figure it all out, Christy.

Rachel said...

Those chemicals mess with your bodies blueprints! Thanks for sharing with Healthy 2day Wednesdays! Hope you'll participate this week!

ShopPharmacyCounter said...
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