The Not-So-Sweet Side Effects of Artificial Sweeteners

Written by Joel Marion

artificial sweeteners

Sugar. It’s the bane of many a weight-loss program. So sweet. So delicious. So tempting. And so calorie dense, nutrient poor, and unhealthy.

But how can you possibly give up all sweet treats?

Marketers from many companies want you to believe you can have your cake (…and your soda…and your cookies…) and lose weight too. All you have to do is replace sugar and sugar-sweetened foods with any number of popular artificial sweeteners (from sucralose to aspartame to acesulfame potassium, or AceK, to saccharin, and many more), and you’ll get to enjoy the sweetness without the excess calories.

Despite compelling advertisements stating their products taste like sugar with none of the calories and none of the guilt, rest assured, these chemicals are anything but natural and may be just as likely—and in some cases, more likely—as sugar to prevent you from reaching your goals.

Artificial Sweeteners and Weight Loss

While animal studies have linked artificial sweeteners to weight gain and obesity, a recently published provides evidence that artificially-sweetened diet soft drinks may have a negative impact on a weight-loss program. In the study, which had no financial ties to the beverage industry and was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers from the University of Nottingham assigned 62 women, who regularly consumed diet beverages, to one of two groups. Half of the women were instructed to replace zero-calorie, artificially-sweetened beverages (i.e., diet sodas) with water after their main meal (i.e., lunch), while the other half continued to drink diet sodas. The women in the latter group drank only one diet soda per day after lunch.

The researchers tracked the progress of the women for 24 weeks, and they were all instructed to follow the exact same weight-loss program including a reduced-calorie diet. As expected, at the end of the trial, all the women lost a significant amount of weight. However, the women who replaced diet beverages with water lost, on average, 16% more weight than the women who drank diet sodas—and remember, they only drank one diet beverage per day. Not only that, the women who drank water experienced improvements in their insulin sensitivity and carbohydrate tolerance that were 70% and 42% greater, respectively, than the group who drank diet beverages.

This study provides evidence that replacing artificially-sweetened diet beverages with water may lead to greater weight management and metabolic benefits during a weight-loss program.

Gut-Wrenching Side Effects

You may also be surprised to learn that one of the most common sweeteners, sucralose, actually contains chlorine. Yes, the same chlorine that goes in swimming pools. Just like chlorine kills off micro-organisms in swimming pools, sucralose may kill off healthy bacteria that live in your gut. That’s healthy bacteria that’s vitally important to virtually every aspect of your health.

Recently, a study at Duke University confirmed this very finding. The researchers found that animals fed sucralose—in realistic amounts well within the FDA’s safety limits—for 12 weeks experienced a significant reduction in the amount of their “good” gut bacteria. Even after a 12-week recovery period, the quantity of beneficial micro-organisms remained significantly depressed.

Here’s a direct quote from that study:

“Sucralose suppresses beneficial bacteria and directly affects the expression of the transporter P-gp and cytochrome P-450 isozymes that are known to interfere with the bioavailability of nutrients. Furthermore, these effects occur at doses that contain sucralose levels that are approved by the FDA for use in the food supply.”

Did you know that your digestive system houses over 70% of your immunity, which relies heavily on a healthy balance of gut bacteria? In fact, there are more than 100 TRILLION living micro-organisms in your gut that control many aspects of your health, and due to things like artificial sweeteners, many people have created a substantial unhealthy imbalance of gut bacteria(called “gut dysbiosis”).

Here are some of the consequences that can result from gut dysbiosis if left unaddressed:

  • Bowel irritation and digestive discomfort
  • Skin issues
  • Fatigue and low energy levels
  • Lowered immune response
  • Difficulty losing weight
  • Poor carbohydrate management and suboptimal metabolic function

Perhaps you’re thinking, “Oh, that’s just one sweetener.” Not so fast. Another study published in the journal Nature found that humans consuming the artificial sweetener saccharin for just five days resulted in gut dysbiosis as well as reductions in carbohydrate tolerance.

The Key to Beating Dysbiosis

It’s not all bad news, however. In fact, the great news is that you can actually supplement with healthy bacteria (more commonly known as probiotics), which support a healthy balance of gut bacteria and help your gut battle numerous threatening challenges, such as artificial sweeteners, aging, environmental factors, traveling, stress, poor food choices, and more. Research is now suggesting that supplementing with a quality probiotic supplement daily may:

  • Help the immune system function properly
  • Keep harmful micro-organisms in check
  • Support healthy brain function
  • Aid digestion, including breaking down difficult-to-digest foods
  • Support healthy weight management
  •  Aid in nutrient absorption

Unfortunately, not all probiotics are created equally:

That’s why, just as with any supplement, it’s important to find a company you can trust that provides evidence-based solutions.

Instead of leaving fragile probiotic cells to fend for themselves, BioTrust Pro-X10 incorporates patented, research-backed Microencapsulation Technology. This process encases each live cell in a lipid matrix to protect them from oxygen, light, acids, bile, and the like. The end result is dramatically enhanced survival of probiotic cells both on the shelf and through the stomach, and greatly improved delivery over traditional probiotic supplements.

This means you get up to FIVE TIMES more health-promoting probiotics delivered to your gut where you need them most.

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You may not know this, but research has shown that after just one year on the shelf in a sealed bottle at room temperature, on average, only about 40% of many store-bought probiotics (which are delicate living organisms that are sensitive to heat, light, moisture, and acid) survive. What’s more, due to the harsh environment of the stomach, another 80% of the remaining live probiotic cells may be killed off before they reach your gut (the “final destination” they must reach alive and well in order to provide you with their beneficial properties).

Furthermore, many products contain probiotics that are already dead within days or weeks of bottling due to poor manufacturing and storage practices that expose the cultures to high heat. In other words, a traditional probiotic supplement could be virtually worthless by the time you take it—what a waste of time and money.

Avoid the Artificial Sweeteners

Despite how widely available artificial sweeteners are and the overwhelming number of products they’re found in, the unintended consequences can be downright frightening and more likely to lead to a lack of success than the “sweet” benefits that savvy marketers may lead you to believe.

So, the next time you’re looking for a sweet treat, consider your gut and the tremendous importance it plays in your overall health. Instead, reach for a delicious piece of whole, low-sugar fruit like strawberries, raspberries, kiwi, or apples, or try a snack sweetened with a truly natural low-calorie sweetener like stevia leaf extract.

#1 WORST Nutrient:

Now that you know the effect that artificial sweeteners have on healthy digestion, we are going to show you the #1 WORST nutrient for your health. It destroys your immune system, wreaks havoc on your entire body, decreases your body’s ability to process carbs, and contributes to much of the weight gain and obesity problems world-wide.

And worst of all, it’s something you probably eat EVERY single day… Limit your intake of this nutrient immediately:

==>The #1 WORST food for your health (AVOID this) 

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References

  • 1. Abou-Donia MB, El-Masry EM, Abdel-Rahman AA, McLendon RE, Schiffman SS. Sucralose alters gut microflora and increases intestinal p-glycoprotein and cytochrome p-450 in male rats. J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2008;71(21):1415- 1429. doi:10.1080/15287390802328630.
  • 2. Suez J, Korem T, Zeevi D, et al. Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota. Nature. September 2014. doi:10.1038/nature13793.
  • What do you have to say about Stevia ?

    • Cristina

      Hello Meir. Great question.

      I am all for using low-calorie, natural sweeteners like stevia, monk fruit, and erythritol. In fact, my first recommendation is typically stevia, as it is an all-natural, calorie-free, zero-glycemic sweetener.

      Sweet Leaf has an awesome line of no-filler stevia products, so definitely check them out.

      The reason I like Stevia-based sweeteners, is because they are derived from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant, which is native to South America and been used for centuries as a sugar substitute. Purportedly 300 times sweeter than sugar, steviol glycoside extracts have no caloric value and no effect on blood sugar levels, which makes it a highly attractive all-natural sweetener.

      In 2009, the FDA considered “Rebiana to be generally recognized as safe (GRAS).” The following two review studies found no health concerns with stevia or any of its sweetening extracts:

      http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs…37480903193049

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20370653

      What’s more, the following 2009 review study found that stevia and related compounds have “anti-hyperglycemic, anti-hypertensive, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, anti-diarrheal, diuretic, and immunomodulatory actions.”

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19000919

      Thus, stevia and stevia-based sweeteners provide a safe, all-natural, non-glycemic, zero-calorie alternative to artificial sweeteners and sugar.

      I hope this is helpful, Meir.

  • drbarney

    I prepared a list of commercial food corporations and the “health food” companies that have been acquired by these corporations. I use this list the same way a school principal would use a sex offender registry to screen teacher candidates when I choose what foods I buy or eat. An example is G protein shake which has more sugar than protein. It is made by Garotaid which is part of Pepsi-cola.

  • Dorothy Finlay

    I havew diabetes and use stevia based sweetners.

    • Cristina

      Hello Dorothy. I am pleased to hear that you have found Stevia to be a safe alternative for you, based on your health concerns.

      My first recommendation for anyone who has concerns with blood sugar regulation is typically Stevia, as it is an all-natural, calorie-free, zero-glycemic sweetener. This is what I personally use as a sweetener.

      There is a product called Zero, which is an erythritol-based sweetener that may also be of consideration for you.

      Another option that you may consider is Swerve, which is a combination of erythritol and oligosaccharides (i.e., sweet fibers from fruits and vegetables). We actually use a small amount of Swerve in BioTRUST Low Carb Protein Blend.

      Do you regularly check your glucose levels? Have you noticed that Stevia has any effect, whether positive or negative?

      As with anything we discuss, if you have been diagnosed with a disease or illness, we recommend that you discuss any changes to your diet or exercise program with your regular physician. Any suggestions we make should never replace those made by your doctor.

  • Dorothy Finlay

    I don’t find Stevia makes a difference to my blood sugar which I monitor daily. The other sweetner you mention ‘Swerve’ is not available in New Zealand .
    Thank you for your comments.