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What’s the dirt on Artificial Sweeteners ?

As the health problems with sugar is proven further and further, companies are looking for alternative taste enhancers. Artificial sweeteners being on the top of their priority list. Makes sense because most of us consumers are asking for too much. We want the taste but want the health too. Quite a challenge especially when switching from sugar.

Now the question is are they “ok” for you ? We can’t say anything artificial is good for you and hence used the word “ok”. Well, in the late 1970s there was a huge dispute about the cancer causing effects of saccharin, an artificial sweetener. But many studies disproved this over time. This doesn’t mean they are entirely “ok” for you. Read on.

What do studies show on artificial sweeteners?

A 2014 study, which was a meta analysis (study accounting for the results of several research papers) found that there was only a weight loss of less than 1kg on average over the speculated time. Apart from that, multiple independent studies have shown contradictory results. Some have shown that artificial sweeteners can cause weight gain while others, weight loss.

Some important science that we observed on the brain is that, when we consume sugar, our brain expects a boost of energy and calories. The sweet taste associated with sugar is registered in the brain that way. So it’s fair to think that it might confuse the brain when we consume super low calorie artificial sweeteners that are sweet but don’t provide the expected energy to the body. Signals of hunger and fullness can get screwed. Ghrelin and Leptin, often referred to as the hunger and satiety hormones respectively, work based on the signals given from the brain. If the brain is confused, this can cause an imbalance of these hormones.

Another key area is your gut health. You know how at Ytalife we take gut healthy super seriously. Three a trillion dudes living in your gut taking care of you. 90% of the serotonin (your feel good hormone) is also released in the gut. So your mood and overall health is highly dependent on these guys. Studies have shown that artificial sweeteners can possibly wreak havoc on your gut (many of them were animal studies though and a few were observational studies in humans).

Now something else that needs to be considered is the kind of artificial sweeteners itself. There are so many and some better than others while some may be way worse. Let’s look at a few:

Aspartame

It was invented in 1965 and soon approved by the Food and drug administration. Something to be noted here is that, technological advancement in terms of research and experimentation gets better with time. So approving something is 1965, does not mean it’s actually good or safe for us. This was the issue with “big FAT lie”. In 2005, a study conducted on mice found that high levels of aspartame could lead to cancer. Aspartame creates formaldehyde via methanol in our bodies. This can be dangerous. Now this one line would be enough for you to shun aspartame, but hold up! The mice in the test were given close to the equivalent amount of aspartame contained in 20 diet sodas. That is a lot! Also, humans metabolise aspartame in a different way. So does this mean its ok for you? Well its still debatable. We wouldn’t recommend aspartame though because it can still mess with your brain and gut.

Sucralose

This is your Splenda. It’s very common in many energy drinks and you can now find it on the labels of many of the protein powder supplements too. Some studies have shown the Sucralose could lead to leukaemia. But, it’s still not absolutely evident. But again, we don’t recommend it because of how it could influence your gut biome.

Saccharin

A 2014 study showed that this particular sweetener could lead to glucose intolerance. This test was again, done in mice and well mice are not humans. But then again, they have a pretty bad rap in the food industry and so are generally replaced by Sucralose.

Stevia

Stevia comes from a plant and is supposedly “natural”. We disagree. The plant is natural, sure. But the sweetener we get is quite heavily processed. Now is it bad for you? Again, debatable. Stevia is like 300 times sweeter than sugar (perceived taste). So far, stevia has been shown to be relatively better. Emphasis on “relatively”. But at the end of the day, it is still a highly processed product as well.

Our Verdict : We don’t recommend artificial sweeteners generally, but if you want to have something sweet, our best bet would be to have limited amounts of stevia.

References :
1. Swithers, S.E. and Davidson, T.L., 2008. A role for sweet taste: calorie predictive relations in energy regulation by rats. Behavioral neuroscience, 122(1), p.161.

2. Suez, J., Korem, T., Zeevi, D., Zilberman-Schapira, G., Thaiss, C.A., Maza, O., Israeli, D., Zmora, N., Gilad, S., Weinberger, A. and Kuperman, Y., 2014. Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota. Nature, 514(7521), pp.181-186.

3. Chi, L., Bian, X., Gao, B., Tu, P., Lai, Y., Ru, H. and Lu, K., 2018. Effects of the artificial sweetener neotame on the gut microbiome and fecal metabolites in mice. Molecules, 23(2), p.367.

4. Fagherazzi, G., Gusto, G., Affret, A., Mancini, F.R., Dow, C., Balkau, B., Clavel-Chapelon, F., Bonnet, F. and Boutron-Ruault, M.C., 2017. Chronic consumption of artificial sweetener in packets or tablets and type 2 diabetes risk: Evidence from the E3N-European prospective investigation into cancer and nutrition study. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 70(1), pp.51-58.

5. Swithers, S.E. and Davidson, T.L., 2008. A role for sweet taste: calorie predictive relations in energy regulation by rats. Behavioral neuroscience, 122(1), p.161.

6. Swithers, S.E., Baker, C.R. and Davidson, T.L., 2009. General and persistent effects of high-intensity sweeteners on body weight gain and caloric compensation in rats. Behavioral neuroscience, 123(4), p.772.

7. Kanders, B.S., Lavin, P.T., Kowalchuk, M.B., Greenberg, I. and Blackburn, G.L., 1988. An evaluation of the effect of aspartame on weight loss. Appetite, 11, pp.73-84.

8. Stinson, L.F., Payne, M.S. and Keelan, J.A., 2017. Planting the seed: Origins, composition, and postnatal health significance of the fetal gastrointestinal microbiota. Critical reviews in microbiology, 43(3), pp.352-369.

9. Goyal, S.K., Samsher, G.R. and Goyal, R.K., 2010. Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) a bio-sweetener: a review. Int J Food Sci Nutr, 61(1), pp.1-10.

10. Brandle, J.E., Starratt, A.N. and Gijzen, M., 1998. Stevia rebaudiana: Its agricultural, biological, and chemical properties. Canadian Journal of plant science, 78(4), pp.527-536.

11. Madan, S., Ahmad, S., Singh, G.N., Kohli, K., Kumar, Y., Singh, R. and Garg, M., 2010. Stevia rebaudiana (Bert.) Bertoni-a review.


Do you use Artificial Sweeteners? Let us know what they are in the comments below!


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