In an attempt to help people control their weight and sugar intake, more and more foods and drinks are being made with artificial sweeteners.
Ingredients such as aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin provide a more intense sweetness than sugar with far fewer calories, so they seem like a perfect alternative for people with diabetes or weight loss goals.
You’ll find artificial sweeteners in:
- manufactured pastries
- fruit juice
- diet foods and drinks
- low-sugar or sugar-free products
However, a growing body of evidence suggests that these artificial sweeteners don’t actually help with weight loss or blood sugar regulation and may even have harmful effects on your health.
Artificial Sweeteners May Lead To Weight Gain
Although low or no-calorie sweeteners are often claimed to help with weight loss, clinical research demonstrates that they are more likely to have the opposite effect.
Rather than helping you reduce your calorie intake, artificial sweeteners tend to stimulate your appetite and lead you to eat more overall—and gain more weight. These strong sweeteners can make unhealthy food and drinks taste more delicious, encouraging you to overindulge and consume more calories than you would otherwise.
Artificial sweeteners also appear to interfere with your gut microbiome—the healthy bacteria that help you digest your food and keep your metabolism and immune system running smoothly. This means that these sweeteners may also prevent you from properly absorbing nutrients from your food, which could potentially lead to malnutrition and further weight gain.
Artificial Sweeteners Increase Your Risk For Heart Disease
A study published in September 2022 demonstrates a clear association between high intake of artificial sweeteners and cardiovascular diseases.
Specifically, the study found:
- Aspartame is associated with an increased risk for cerebrovascular events (strokes).
- Sucralose and acesulfame potassium are associated with an increased risk for coronary heart disease (CHD)
- All artificial sweeteners are associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular diseases.
These effects are likely related to several different factors working together to increase weight gain, reduce insulin sensitivity (a precursor to type 2 diabetes), and promote inflammation throughout the body.
While more research is needed to understand the exact mechanisms by which artificial sweeteners lead to heart disease, these findings suggest that avoiding these sweeteners may be one important step you can take to protect your heart health.
Artificial Sweeteners Might Also Lead To Diabetes And Cancer
The negative impact of artificial sweeteners doesn’t stop at obesity and heart disease—these sweeteners may also lead to diabetes and cancer.
Despite the attraction of artificial sweeteners as a way to help people living with diabetes control their sugar intake, these sweeteners may actually increase the risks associated with the disease.
Even worse, there are concerns that artificial sweeteners may increase your risk for certain types of tumors and cancer, although the research on this topic is still inconclusive.
Additionally, there are also concerns that pregnant or lactating women, children, diabetics, epileptic patients, and people who suffer migraines may be more susceptible to the harmful effects of artificial sweeteners. Individuals in any of those categories are generally cautioned to avoid or limit their consumption of products containing these sweeteners.