I’ll admit the claim that artificial sweeteners will give you amoebic dysentery is one that hasn’t exactly been scientifically validated. But I’ll bet it got your attention. 😉
Artificial sweeteners ARE evil, though. Allow me to explain…
If being lean and healthy is good (and I think we can all agree that it is) then anything that degrades our ability to be lean and healthy can reasonably be labeled as being evil (i.e. the opposite or absence of good).
Indeed, much of this article will be devoted to exposing artificial sweeteners as being exactly that.
There’s been enough noise made about artificial sweeteners by now that, unless you’re an agoraphobic cyberphobe (someone who fears the outside world and computers), chances are you’ve heard ramblings that they might not be accurately represented by the image of a smiling supermodel riding a unicorn with a double rainbow in the background that the diet soda manufacturers would otherwise have you associate with them.
I know. I know. Everybody knows that nobody really thinks artificial sweeteners are dangerous except “tree huggers” and conspiracy theorists.
That may have been the case ten or fifteen years ago. Today, however, doctors and researchers alike are blowing the proverbial whistle on the dangers of artificial sweeteners, as the evidence against them continues to mount.
Calorie counting and carb counting are all the rage – and have been for quite some time now. This has heavily contributed to the rampant use of artificial sweeteners in our food supply.
By substituting sugars with artificial sweeteners, food manufacturers have been able to ease the minds of those in the calorie and carb counting cults, allowing them to feel guilt-free about consuming their products they would otherwise shun.
To make matters worse, people of my ilk – personal trainers and nutritionists – also advise their clients to opt for lower-calorie and low-carb alternatives that substitute natural sugars with any one of the following FDA approved artificial sweeteners:
- Aspartame (Equal and Nutrasweet)
- Sucralose (Splenda)
- Saccharin (Sweet’N Low)
- Acesulfame Potassium
If you have a personal trainer that has given you this advice, find a new personal trainer. Like. Right. Now.
I’m not going to begin to speculate their motive. But I am going to tell you they are giving you dangerous advice (as you’re about to see) that is compromising your health and results, and therefore can’t be trusted.
Artificial Sweeteners, Insulin Resistance and Type 2 Diabetes
The mantra, “A Calorie is a Calorie”, implies that energy balance is all that matters, regardless of where said energy comes from. This is a philosophy that falls into the not so prestigious category of EPIC FAIL!
Not only are calories not all created equal, but a non-calorie that comes from artificial sweeteners is actually anything but a non-calorie.
Okay. Okay. Non-calorie artificial sweeteners may technically satisfy the definition of having an energy value of zero. But non-calories from artificial sweeteners still cause reactions in the body that mirror those induced by full calorie sugars.
Truth be told, artificial sweeteners don’t just mirror the behavior of natural sugars once inside the body. They also come with a myriad of undesirable health effects not associated with natural sweeteners.
I’ll get into all the reasons artificial sweeteners are inferior to natural sugars (and there are several) soon enough…
First, though, you need to understand that artificial sweeteners induce a hormonal response in the body that is similar to that which occurs when sugar enters the blood stream. When the body detects an elevation in blood sugar the pancreas responds by secreting insulin.
Insulin effectively acts as a blood sugar bulldozer, forcing the sugar out of your blood stream and into your body’s muscle and fatty tissue cells. This mechanism serves to regulate your blood sugar and ensure that your body is able to use and store consumed energy efficiently.
It was once thought that artificial sweeteners, since they weren’t actual sugars, didn’t cause an insulin response by the body. We now know that to be a load of nonsense.
Because artificial sweeteners do cause the body to produce insulin, consuming them puts you at serious risk of developing insulin resistance, a condition that will eventually lead to full blown type 2 diabetes if left unchecked.
In fact, a 14-year study of 66,118 women that was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition1 discovered the following:
- Those who drink artificially sweetened diet sodas are at higher risk of developing diabetes than regular soda drinkers.
- Women who drank just one 12-ounce diet soda per day had a 33 percent increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Women who drank diet sodas drank twice as much as those drinking regular soda. This is due to the fact that artificial sweeteners are more addictive than sugar (more on this later) and hundreds to thousands times sweeter.2
Once cells become insulin-resistant, the pancreas isn’t able to produce enough insulin to get the cells to efficiently take up the sugar in the blood, leading to chronically elevated blood sugar levels.3
Also, once you become insulin resistant it becomes much more difficult to lose body fat and just looking at your favorite carbs will make you fatter. Oh, and there is that whole having to inject yourself with insulin thing that sounds about as much fun as, well, poking myself with a needle.
There is good news… Insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes can usually be reversed. The bad news is that it takes having to regularly exercise and seriously limit your intake of sugars (natural and artificial) for weeks or months to do it.
Really extreme cases call for drinking an elixir made from pickle juice, toe nail fungus, cow excrement, belly button lint, ground up wombat bones and extracts from the Corpse Flower (the rarest flower in the world; found in the Indonesian rainforest), so it would be best to not let things go that far.
Artificial Sweeteners Make Healthy Foods Less Enjoyable (Nnnoooo!!!)
Frequent consumption of intensely sweet foods will, over time, overstimulate your taste buds to the point that you will take very little pleasure in eating foods with less flavor intensity.
Artificial sweeteners are hundreds to thousands of times sweeter than table sugar. They’re even sweeter than HFCS (high fructose corn syrup), another evil ingredient.
As I’ll go into below, the immense sweetness artificial sweeteners possess impact the brain to such a degree that they are more addictive than cocaine!
As it relates to the current discussion on your ability to enjoy your food, this over-stimulation of your sugar receptors from frequent use of artificial sweeteners will inhibit your ability to enjoy more subtle and complex tastes.
People who routinely use artificial sweeteners will soon start to find naturally sweet foods, such as fruit, and not-so-sweet foods, such as vegetables, repulsive to a certain degree.
In other words, artificial sweeteners will make you avoid healthy, filling, nutritious foods on a subconscious level because you literally can no longer enjoy them! 4
When you eliminate artificial sweeteners from your diet your taste buds will slowly regain their sensitivity and more subtle foods like apples, potatoes and even broccoli will become enjoyable again.
Artificial Sweeteners Are Addictive (Seriously)
I made the seemingly outrageous claim above that artificial sweeteners are more addictive than cocaine. As shocking as that would seem, there is scientific evidence to back it up.
An animal study5 was performed to determine the addictiveness of sugars and artificial sweeteners.
When rats were given a choice between cocaine and water infused with artificial sweeteners, they found that the artificially sweetened water was eight times more addictive than cocaine.
But wait… It gets even crazier…
They gave a segment of the rats regular doses of cocaine leading up to the study to get them pre-addicted to the drug. Even these rats that had been regularly exposed to cocaine before the study switched to preferring artificial sweeteners during the study! 6
Dr. Mercola expounds on this phenomenon in his article, Diet Soda Dangers, as follows:
“Artificial sweeteners tend to trigger enhanced activity within your brain’s pleasure centers, yet at the same time provide less actual satisfaction. This separation of the taste of sweetness from caloric content means that when you consume artificial sweeteners, your brain actually craves more of it because your body receives no satisfaction on a cellular level because they contain zero nutritional value.
This can actually contribute to not only overeating and weight gain, but also an addiction to artificial sweeteners, along with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke—even if your weight is normal.”
Dr. Oz similarly states, “As the sweet receptors in the esophagus and stomach become “tricked” by the zero-calorie sugar substitute, you crave more food and become susceptible to addictive eating habits like binging or overeating.”7
With all the mounting evidence of how addictive ingredients like HFCS and artificial sweeteners are, it’s REEAAALLLLY difficult for me to believe that food manufacturers are including them in the vast majority of the foods they produce without their addictiveness to the consumer playing a factor.
Manufacturing foods that are more addictive than cocaine sounds like a fairly lucrative business model to me! The more people are addicted to their foods, the more repeat customers they have, the greater the likelihood they will remain loyal customers, and the more annual revenue they bring in because of it.
And the fact that HFCS and artificial sweeteners are considerably cheaper to produce than natural sweeteners probably doesn’t help.
In fact, the U.S. government implicitly promotes these practices, as it subsidizes the genetically modified corn used to manufacture HFCS.
Perhaps the only thing worse than having an addiction is having an addiction to something that will make you fatter, degrade your health and may even kill you…
Aspartame, Formaldehyde and Cancer (Oh My!)
Among the FDA approved artificial sweeteners, aspartame is the most maligned. The evidence linking aspartame to debilitating health concerns is decidedly damning.
How aspartame continues to enjoy the FDA’s stamp of approval is baffling. Well, it would be if our government didn’t showcase itself as being utterly incompetent in so many other areas. But I digress.
Government corruption and incompetency aside, I implore you to take the bull by the horns and avoid this dangerous ingredient at every opportunity!
But what makes aspartame so dangerous?
Warning: Scientific Terms Ahead… No U-Turns Allowed…
The two primary components of aspartame are phenylalanine and aspartic acid, which are amino acids. It’s normal for you to consume these two amino acids in the various foods you eat and they are completely harmless when coming from natural unprocessed foods.
However, when they are chemically manipulated – like they are with aspartame – they can cause serious problems.
Ultimately, ingested aspartame will be 100% absorbed into your body. Ten percent of what is absorbed is in the form of methanol that results from the digestive breakdown of phenylalanine and aspartic acid.
Methanol is a toxin. The EPA defines the safe limit of methanol consumption as being 7.8 milligrams a day or less. This is the amount found in about half a can of diet soda.
Yes, I said HALF a can! How many diet soda drinkers do you know that only consume half a can a day?
Methanol is found naturally in some of the foods you eat. However, in nature it is never bound to amino acids, as it is in aspartame.
In addition, natural sources of methanol contain a fiber component that allows it to pass through your body without being metabolized and converted into formaldehyde, which is exactly what happens as aspartame is broken down and passes through your body.
Since methanol in aspartame isn’t bound to fiber, nearly all of it turns into formaldehyde inside your body. Formaldehyde is a poison that is used in paint remover and embalming fluid, among other things.
The EPA has concluded that there is no known “safe” level of formaldehyde for the human body and has definitively determined that it causes cancer in humans. Specifically, it is known to greatly increase the risk of breast and prostate cancer.
It’s not merely a coincidence that incidents of both of these cancers have been on the rise at a pace closely associated with the expanding use of aspartame throughout the world.8
There have been entire books written on the dangers of artificial sweeteners (and aspartame specifically), but I think I’ve given you more than enough reasons here to take the measures necessary to avoid it at every opportunity.
Before moving on, though, I feel I would be remiss to not at least note the following:
- There have been more reports to the FDA for aspartame reactions than for all other food additives combined.
- There are over 900 published studies on the health hazards of aspartame.
- Migraines are by far the most frequently reported reaction to aspartame. Other commonly reported symptoms include: depression, seizures, nausea, hives, mood changes, fatigue and joint pain.
- 80% of all complaints filed with the FDA relating to food ingredients are related to aspartame 9
- Nearly 100% of independent research finds problems with aspartame 10
Stevia: The Superhero Sworn To Protect Us Against Evil Artificial Sweeteners
Stevia is a FDA approved, zero-calorie, natural sweetener that is produced from a family of plants that are predominantly indigenous to South America and Central America. Stevia provides the same kind of intense sweetness as artificial sweeteners, but without all the “evil” side effects.
For starters, stevia doesn’t appear to have any noticeable impact on insulin levels. This eliminates the fear of developing insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes, a fear that should be a very real concern for anyone who’s regularly ingesting artificial sweeteners.
Actually, the Japanese use stevia to combat insulin resistance. Rat studies have also shown stevia to reverse the onset of insulin resistance.11
So not only does stevia not lead to the development of type 2 diabetes (as is the case with artificial sweeteners); It actually prevents it!
The lack of an insulin response also means the kind of intense carb cravings that follow soon after consuming artificial sweeteners becomes a non-issue when using stevia.
The one drawback with using stevia is that it has an aftertaste. Although, in my opinion it isn’t any worse than what you’d be getting from artificial sweeteners.
While you’ll likely see stevia marketed as tasting the same as sugar, I have yet to use a brand of stevia that’s made good on that promise.
All that said, I personally don’t find the taste of stevia to be a problem. It doesn’t taste exactly like sugar, but it’s close enough for me.
By the way, I rarely use stevia, sugar, honey or any other sweetening agent. Truth be told, I don’t believe sweeteners of any kind are even necessary for eating healthy.
It took some time, but I’ve learned to enjoy black coffee and unsweetened teas. The only other thing I drink on most days is water. And I don’t bake foods that would require external sweetening agents.
If I eat something sweet it will usually be a piece of fruit (daily) or part of a cheat meal (2 or 3 per week).
What About Erythritol?
Erythritol is gaining popularity as a “natural” sweetening alternative. Because it is produced from corn, along with the fact that close to 100% of the corn produced in the U.S. is genetically modified, I remain skeptical of erythritol to the point of falling short of using it myself or recommending its use to others.
It’s also thought that erythritol may cause diarrhea and headaches.12 That’s enough to keep me away. How about you?
Rise Above The Evil of Artificial Sweeteners
Here in America – and around the world – we’re surrounded with easy food options, most of which will also compromise our health. To be perfectly frank: We’re set up for failure.
But for those of us that take our health, fitness and physique seriously, failure is not an option. We daily resist the temptations to give into the easy and unhealthy options around us.
We rise above the circumstances that would otherwise keep us from enjoying life to the fullest.
We don’t take the path of least resistance and instant gratification , because we know that such paths inevitably end prematurely.
We blaze the trail of discipline and delayed gratification. It’s a path that makes us better with every passing day until one day we look around and realize that we’ve traveled eons further than the easy path could have ever taken us.
Finally, evil can only triumph if we allow it to. Remember, consuming dangerous artificial sweeteners is a choice. Nobody is forcing you to consume them and every time you do you’re giving them a foothold in your life.
The evidence against artificial sweeteners is deep and expansive.
The FDA isn’t looking out for you. The food manufacturers aren’t looking out for you.
You have to look out for you!
Sure, I’m here to inform and educate you. But the only thing that truly matters is what you do with the information at your disposal.
Knowledge by itself is not power. Knowledge that leads to action is power.
So take action. Start taking steps to eliminate artificial sweeteners from your diet today. Not tomorrow. And not next month.
The evidence is clear. Removing artificial sweeteners will help prevent diseases like cancer.
It will also improve your health, vitality and physical appearance. It will almost certainly add years to your life and may even save it.
If this doesn’t motivate you to cut out artificial sweeteners from your diet, what will?
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