Use Artificial Sweeteners? Here’s Why You May Want to Nix the Sugar Substitutes 

Do you use artificial sweeteners, either in your coffee or in your special treats? You may want to reevaluate your choice to eat them.
woman putting artificial sweetener in her coffee

If you’re all about skipping natural sugars and opting for those little pink or yellow packets, you may want to think again. A long-term study has discovered a link between artificial sweeteners and fat retention in our bodies. Here’s everything you need to know to make an informed decision. 

Disclosure: First, I’m not a doctor, but I am someone who keeps up with the latest findings when it comes to keeping healthy over 50. Second, this post is for informative purposes only; if you have questions regarding the study’s results, please chat with your doctor or nutritionist to determine what’s best for you.

Thinking Back

artificial sweeteners

When I was a little girl, I remember going out to dinner with my grandparents. When it was time for coffee at the end of the meal, they’d pass around the rectangle container that always sat in the middle of the table filled with white and pink packets. Out of sheer curiosity, I tried one of the pink ones just to see what it tasted like. For me, it was everything I disliked in something sweet. 

To this day, I still don’t use artificial sweeteners in my food or beverages. Of course, that’s just my preference, but they don’t taste “right.” Additionally, the blue packages give me a headache. So, after reading this study, I’m actually glad I skipped them. Of course, you do you – and only you can make the right decision for your life. 

First, What Are Artificial Sweeteners, Exactly?

various sweeteners

In a nutshell, artificial sweeteners aren’t made from real sugar and are used to sweeten our foods and drinks. They’re often much sweeter than traditional table sugar, and you typically need to use far less to make what you’re consuming taste sweet. 

In the U.S., at the time this post was written, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had given the green light to eight sugar substitutes:

  • Acesulfame potassium (Sweet One, Sunett).
  • Advantame
  • Aspartame (NutraSweet & Equal) 
  • Luo han guo (Monk Fruit in the Raw)
  • Neotame (Newtame)
  • Saccharin (Sweet’N Low)
  • Stevia leaf extracts (Truvia, PureVia, among others)
  • Sucralose (Splenda)

Additionally, the FDA also allows the use of sugar alcohols. You can find this type of sweetener in sorbitol and xylitol, but because of the nature of this type of sweetener, it’s not considered a food additive. 

While we’re talking about artificial sweeteners, there’s something called an acceptable daily intake, or ADI. Depending on how much you use and your body weight, it’s different for everyone, and it changes depending on the country you’re in as well. 

As a rule, sugar substitutes are safe in limited amounts if you’re considered healthy. But, if you have phenylketonuria, you should avoid aspartame. Something that was of personal interest to me is if you have a bowel disease, you should stay away from sugar substitutes because they can cause flare-ups. 

Sugar Substitutes and Health Benefits

Before we get into the study, I do have to mention that there are a couple of actual benefits to using a sugar substitute. First, compliments of the lack of actual sugar, dentists are noting that those who use it have less tooth decay. Secondly, they don’t raise blood sugar levels – which is especially good for folks with diabetes. 

Artificial Sweeteners and Increased Body Fat

Belly fat, stomach fat, weight loss

For 20 years, the Minnesota Medical School and School of Public Health researchers have been looking for a link between cardiovascular disease risk and what we eat. During these two decades, the team looked at not only what the 3088 participants were eating on a daily basis, but they made sure to pay special attention to non-nutritive sweeteners, aka artificial sweeteners, and diet beverages, including diet sodas. 

Published in the International Journal of Obesity this past July, the study’s findings are very much worthy of note. When looking specifically at adipose tissue (that’s fat tissue, to you and me), they noticed a correlation between long-term ingestion of both aspartame and saccharin and an increase in body fat. This increase in body fat was found in both the abdomen and muscle tissue as well. 

What Does This Mean For Us?

different types of sugar

So, what does it mean for those of us who use – and have been potentially been using for decades – artificial sweeteners or sugar substitutes? To put it plainly, it means that instead of using them to keep our bodies healthy and keep a lower body fat content, there is a possible link to an increase in body fat, a bigger waist circumference, and even obesity. 

If you’ve been using artificial sweeteners for years, or even decades, there’s no need to panic yet. Further studies will be conducted to make sure that the same results are accurate. If they are, the need for alternatives to the national recommendations of using artificial sweeteners instead of natural sugars will have to be considered and revised. 

Read Next:

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7 Steps to Limit Daily Sugar Intake Once and For All

Watch Out for Unhealthy Aliases: Other Names for Sugar

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