Why Artificial Sweeteners Are Not the Answer – Regardless of the News

Posted: August 2, 2017 in Blog, Food, Myths, Nutrition
Artificial sweetener

Artificial sweeteners are nothing new. Saccharin, the mother of them all, was discovered in 1879. But it remained the only artificial sweetener until demand for no-sugar diet drinks and foods exploded in the 1960s and 1970s. Then, as demand for lower calorie foods increased, grocery store shelves were suddenly packed with processed foods sweetened with sugar substitutes like aspartame, cyclamate and sucralose that offered the sweet taste of sugar without the calories and weight gain they produced.

News about the health risks of artificial sweeteners is nothing new either. A 1960 study found that high doses of saccharin may cause bladder cancer in rats. The Canadian government banned saccharin in 1977 following further animal research. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned cyclamate in 1969.

Never-the-less, other artificial sweeteners, including sucralose, stevia and acesulfame potassium, continue to be widely used in the ‘diet’ foods that are popular in many weight loss programs or for those who simply want to cut down on how many calories they eat.

But, more recently, research into artificial sweeteners has produced evidence that they may not deliver the weight loss benefits they promise. Even worse, they may pose a number of health risks.

In September and October, 2016, we published a series of blog posts that warned of both the health risks of artificial sweeteners and the fact that they may actually contribute to weight gain instead of fighting it.

In “Think Pop is Bad? Here are 10 Ways it May Shorten Your Life – Part 2” we pointed out that even diet pop, which many consider to be ‘healthier’ than regular pop, can affect your metabolism and cause weight gain due to the effect of artificial sweeteners. In “5 More Weight Loss Myths” we pointed out that artificial sweeteners may be as bad for health and weight loss as real sugar, including the presence of known carcinogens.

So the results of research published earlier this month in the Canadian Medical Association Journal should have come as no surprise. Yet its findings have been wake-up call for anyone who uses artificial sweeteners:

“In the cohort studies, consumption of nonnutritive sweeteners was associated with increases in weight and waist circumference, and higher incidence of obesity, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular events.”
CMAJ, ‘Nonnutritive sweeteners and cardiometabolic health’, July 17, 2017

The CMAJ report is the result of a review of over 30 studies, involving over 400,000 participants over 10 years.

Yet, despite the seriousness of the findings, some experts are not completely convinced by the conclusions. In an article in the Globe & Mail, Dr. Sean Wharton, an internal medicine specialist who works with patients on weight and diabetes management said “There’s psychological issues, there’s other medical issues, family issues. These people tend to be at risk in the first place. So we can’t use these studies to say that these sweeteners are the problem.”

But, regardless of whether or not you believe that artificial sweeteners cause weight gain, it may not matter. Instead of debating about the effects of artificial sweeteners, anyone who is serious about losing weight, keeping it off and living a healthier lifestyle, needs to rid themselves of the mindset that the sweeteners foster.

There is no quick fix for weight management. Just the idea that simply by substituting a diet version of pop for the regular variety means that you’re controlling your weight might do more damage than the diet pop itself. It leads to the belief that weight management is a quick and simple process.

To learn about effective ways of managing your weight and getting the nutrition you need to do so, call or visit your local Herbal One Centre.