They are calorie-free and super-sweet. The jury is out on their long-term health risks. Some people can’t get enough of them. Some people can’t stand them. Some people can’t tell the difference. (🤔 )
I’ve had multiple conversations about artificial sweeteners recently.
Are they “bad” for you? That depends on who you are. Are they nutritious? Not even a little bit. Are they worse than “real” sugar? Answering that question implies we’re ranking foods from good to bad, and bad to worst. Let’s not. In my opinion, there’s not much to debate here, so we’ll keep this short and sweet.
Artificial sweeteners don’t pull their weight.
One study followed 3,682 individuals for at least seven years. Their weight and dietary habits were monitored. As Harvard’s School of Public Health, The Nutrition Source site states: “…those who drank artificially sweetened drinks had a 47% higher increase in BMI than those who did not.”
That weight gain didn’t come from the calories in artificial sweeteners, because there are close to none. It may have come from any number of things, but what I see most often is that sweet begets sweet. Artificial sweeteners taste anywhere from 180 to 20,0000 times sweeter than sugar.
Our brain is confused by what’s happening—a sweetness overdose but no actual sugar? Sorcery.
In my nutrition counseling, I hear many people say they both consume artificial sweeteners and have a “sweet tooth.” They don’t see a good reason to reduce artificial sweeteners, since they are calorie-free. They feel like a “free” treat, and I guess that’s not entirely false. They are free of nutrients and health benefits.
If you drink artificially sweetened beverages (e.g. Diet soda), add artificial sweeteners to smoothies or baked goods, or consume artificially sweetened processed food things, take a moment to think about this.
When was the last time you said you have a “sweet tooth”?
(Not a real thing—but we know that, right?)
When was the last time you really craved something sweet?
Have you increased your use of sweeteners over the years?
If you’re thinking that this all sounds a little too familiar, try cutting back on your artificial sweetener intake.
If it doesn’t ring true for you at all, and you’re in good health, then you do you. I won’t say artificial sweeteners are “the worst” or the best for anyone. But any “food” with zero calories, yet a few (or many) psychological outcomes is worth reexamining.