This is a debate that has been raging on since generations. But we come down resoundingly on the side of bad. While many believe that artificial sweeteners become a boon for those people who are not allowed to consume regular sugar due to a pre-existent medical condition not everyone who consumes them know of the many prominent side effects that they can cause and how much they can hurt the body.
While this is a point of conflict for several nutritionists and doctors across the globe, the important question to ask is if they are good or bad for you individually and the answer usually is a resounding yes.
Some experts claim that artificial sweeteners have their merits and actually help you consume fewer calories as compared to regular sugar without compromising too much on the flavour or taste aspect. Others who have made significant gains in their research explain that artificial sweeteners are nothing but chemicals, and we all know that consuming chemicals in the long run does no good to the human mind and body. To help ascertain a broader understanding of how artificial sweeteners are not good for you, let’s first understand what they are and how they tend to work.
Artificial Sweeteners- Chemically Constituted and Induced
Artificial sweeteners are chemically manufactured sugar substitutes that replace sugar consumption with a more than unwanted influx of chemical consumption in the body. So typically any artificial sweetener is manufactured in the form of chemicals and meant to be added to foods as sugar replacements in order to derive sweetness.
Typically constituted in a lab, they are also often referred to as intense sweeteners and this should be the first clue as to why human beings should stay away from them. They are known as intense because their chemical properties can provide tastes similar to what table sugar provides which are enhanced and magnified several thousand times over.
Artificial sweeteners have the tendency and capacity to taste sweet simply because they are recognized as so through the sweetness receptors that lie on your tongue. As mentioned earlier, they tend to provide almost no calories, simply because the human body struggles to break them down.
Because artificial sweetener molecules have similar properties to regular sugar molecules they tend to fit on the sweetness receptor as an ideal replacement and hence trick the mind and body into believing that they are sweet and natural like sugar. However, because of their potency and the fact that you need a very tiny amount of artificial sweeteners in recipes to conjure up delicious sweets, and desserts, the calorie consumption due to them is virtually zero. This is why several, fitness minded and conscious individuals also get taken in by their premise and switch to them instead of regulating their regular sugar intake or shifting to other natural sweetening sources.
Many types of artificial sweeteners exist in markets today with everyone wanting to join in that bandwagon, but not all may be approved and certified safe for your consumption. This is why you need to know a little about commonly used artificial sweeteners in and around you before you arrive at a consumption decision.
Common Artificial Sweeteners
Brand names like NutraSweet, Equal, or Sugar Twin use this. Aspartame is known to be at least 200 times sweeter than regular table sugar.
- Acesulfame Potassium
This chemical is also widely known as Acesulfame K and this one too is about 200 times sweeter than sugar. This one is also the chef’s favourite and is best suited for cooking and baking.
This artificial sweetener is 20,000 times, yes you read that right, 20,000 times sweeter than table sugar and can only be used for cooking and baking.
Sold under brand names like Sweet’N Low, Sweet Twin, or Necta Sweet, saccharin is said to be 700 times sweeter than regular table sugar.
Sucralose a popular artificial sweetener for packaged and processed foods and is 600 times sweeter than table sugar. It is ideal for cooking, baking, and mixing with acidic foods. It is more commonly identified under its brand name Splenda.
Now that you know what you could be buying and how much more chemically induced your artificial sweetener can be, let’s also fill you in on some adverse effects that artificial sweeteners can and have been known to have.
Effects of Artificial Sweeteners on the Human Body
- Appetite and Weight Loss
There have been recent observations which show that replacing sugary foods or drinks with artificially sweetened ones may reduce hunger and subsequently calorie intake. Participants tend to report less hunger and also consume fewer calories once they have transcended to artificial sweeteners from their regular sugar intake. Any well certified nutritionist will tell you that this is one of the worst ways of losing weight in the long run. Also the minute you wean off these sweeteners, the lost calories will pile back on denting your fitness goals, your resolve, and your confidence.
Diabetics believe that they tend to benefit from consuming artificial sweeteners, as they can offer the much wanted sweetness in food and beverages without hiking or hurting blood sugar levels. However, most diabetic related physicians are quick to point out how artificial sweeteners are unnaturally made and hence not a good sugar substitute for the body. A lot of them point out to other natural sweeteners or then encourage you to stay completely away from anything that is remotely sweet. Controlled studies have already shown that artificial sweeteners could affect blood sugar and insulin levels adversely as well.
- Metabolic Syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is nothing but a group of medical conditions that include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess belly fat, and abnormal cholesterol levels. Due to their artificially constituted chemical properties, artificial sweeteners are likely to increase the risk of any pone of these ailments that form a part of the metabolic syndrome.
- Gut Health
Gut bacteria plays an important role with the health of your body because poor gut health is linked to numerous problems like weight gain, poor blood sugar control, weakened immune system, and poor sleep. Artificial sweeteners could disrupt this all important balance of gut bacteria in some people hence enhancing the risks of one or more of these problems.
Using artificial sweeteners generally poses health risks that overshadow the short term tangible benefits of weight loss. To those who need to use them to decrease the amount of regular added table sugar in their diets due to medical and healthy compulsions, we would suggest other natural sweeteners which are not chemically induced to taste like sugar.
While there is a likelihood of some immediate positive effects, these effects are usually individual and depend completely on the type of artificial sweetener that is being consumed. In the long run we come down heavily on the opposite side of artificial sweeteners and would strongly urge you to do the same too!