I’m not a fan of artificial sweeteners (non-nutritive = NNS). They are, in fact, the only “foods” I will simply not eat. I wanted you to know what I know, so that you can be as educated as possible when making your personal decision whether or not to consume them.
There have been some interesting discoveries and statements made about artificial sweeteners in the news lately, a big one being that the World Health Organization has determined that aspartame is a possible carcinogen, but for some reason has decide not to change the intake guidelines for it.
Keep in mind this is aspartame, which, when metabolized in the body, becomes formaldehyde, stored in various tissues throughout the body.
Saccharine has long been known as a carcinogen, and was one of the first products that the FDA required to include labelling to say so.
Sucralose damages the microbiome. Sure, it’s not digested by the human body and so doesn’t have caloric value – but you can’t introduce a substance to an ecosystem and not have impact.
A fundamental problem with artificial sweeteners is that they are hundreds of times sweeter than sugar. And sugar is so much sweeter than fruit. So, if you’re eating artificial sweeteners, you’re going to get used to super sweet foods and something like an apple is going to taste like water in comparison.
Following are peer-reviewed journal articles that include associated studies validating the harm that artificial and intense sweeteners can inflict. Here I’ve pulled out some bullet points for you, but encourage you to read the full documents if you like.
- Not associated with greater weight loss, decrease in BMI nor waist circumference.
- Linked to weight gain and obesity: A study of 78,649 women aged 50-69 found users of NNS gained significantly more weight in a one-year period than non-users.
- Linked to higher BMI: A study of 3,682 adults found users of NNS over a 7-year period had significantly higher increases in BMI than non-users.
- Linked to greater instances of Type 2 Diabetes: A study of 66,118 women over 14 years showed a 68% increase in onset of T2DM in those who drank 20oz/week of NNS beverages compared to those who did not.
- Linked to decreased diversity of gut microbiome.
- Shows persistent alterations in taste perception.
- Increases blood glucose levels and likelihood of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus at just 1 beverage/day.
- Increases risk of hypertension, coronary heart disease, and chronic kidney disease at 2 beverages/day.
- Effects brain tissue by crossing the blood brain barrier.
- Associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Anxiety associated with aspartame consumption lasts for two generations even if offspring had zero aspartame consumption.
- Increases risk of metabolic syndrome (elevated triglycerides, lowered HDL, increased central adiposity, elevated blood sugar, elevated blood pressure).
- Cumulatively weakens sweet perception and blunts hormones, negatively affecting blood glucose, hunger, and satiety.
- Aspartame has been linked to behavioral and cognitive concerns including learning problems, headache, seizure, migraines, irritability, anxiety, depression, and insomnia.
Azad MB, Abou-Setta AM, Chauhan BF, Rabbani R, Lys J, Copstein L, Mann A, Jeyaraman MM, Reid AE, Fiander M, MacKay DS, McGavock J, Wicklow B, Zarychanski R. Nonnutritive sweeteners and cardiometabolic health: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials and prospective cohort studies. CMAJ. 2017 Jul 17;189(28):E929-E939. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.161390. PMID: 28716847; PMCID: PMC5515645.
Burke MV, Small DM. Physiological mechanisms by which non-nutritive sweeteners may impact body weight and metabolism. Physiol Behav. 2015 Dec 1;152(Pt B):381-8. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2015.05.036. Epub 2015 Jun 3. PMID: 26048305; PMCID: PMC4661139.
Choudhary AK, Lee YY. Neurophysiological symptoms and aspartame: What is the connection? Nutr Neurosci. 2018 Jun;21(5):306-316. doi: 10.1080/1028415X.2017.1288340. Epub 2017 Feb 15. PMID: 28198207.
Debras C, Chazelas E, Sellem L, Porcher R, Druesne-Pecollo N, Esseddik Y et al. Artificial sweeteners and risk of cardiovascular diseases: results from the prospective NutriNet-Santé cohort BMJ 2022; 378 :e071204 doi:10.1136/bmj-2022-071204
Jones, S. K., McCarthy, D. M., Vied, C., Stanwood, G. D., Schatschneider, C., & Bhide, P. G. (2022). Transgenerational transmission of aspartame-induced anxiety and changes in glutamate-GABAsignaling and gene expression in the amygdala. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 119(49), e2213120119.
Sharma, A., Amarnath, S., Thulasimani, M., & Ramaswamy, S. (2016). Artificial sweeteners as a sugar substitute: Are they really safe?. Indian journal of pharmacology, 48(3), 237–240. https://doi.org/10.4103/0253-7613.182888
Swithers SE. Artificial sweeteners produce the counterintuitive effect of inducing metabolic derangements. Trends Endocrinol Metab. 2013 Sep;24(9):431-41. doi: 10.1016/j.tem.2013.05.005. Epub 2013 Jul 10. PMID: 23850261; PMCID: PMC3772345.
Turner, A., Veysey, M., Keely, S., Scarlett, C. J., Lucock, M., & Beckett, E. L. (2020). Intense Sweeteners, Taste Receptors and the Gut Microbiome: A Metabolic Health Perspective. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(11), 4094. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17114094