However, over the years, several studies and research conducted across the globe have revealed that artificial sweeteners come at a cost – they can increase your susceptibility to Diabetes and Weight Gain over a prolonged period of time.
How Are Artificial Sweeteners Different From Sugar?
When you consume sugar, the body transports it to the cells where it’s either used up for energy or stored. The stored reserves can be in the form of glycogen, which the body again uses up as energy, and the ‘extra’ sugars converts into fatty acids to be stored in fat cells. That’s how eating excess sugars leads to a growing waistline, since the body doesn’t use up all of it to produce energy.
On the other hand, artificial sweeteners are made-made chemicals, and hence the body cannot absorb or process all of them. Certain sugar alcohols (for example – sorbitol or xylitol) cannot be processed by the body at all, and they sit in the GI tract, causing diarrhea, acidity and bloating.
The artificial sweeteners that the body does process are treated as foreign, toxic substances and hence don’t get absorbed into the cells to create energy; instead, they travel straight to the liver and are filtered out of the body.
The Problems Of Including Artificial Sweeteners Into A Healthy Diet
Studies have linked artificial sweeteners to a plethora of negative health impacts. The most common one is quite controversial – these can lead to sugar cravings. When we eat something sweet, the brain releases a hormone dopamine, and at the same time, also releases the hormone leptin which is an appetite regulator. Leptin will inform your brain when you have ingested enough calories to feel ‘full’. So when you consume foods or drinks that taste sweet but aren’t accompanied by any real calories, the brain’s pathways are confused. When the calories don’t follow, the body continues to tell you that you crave something sweet.
As a result of this metabolic confusion, artificial sweeteners increase sweet cravings and also reduce the body’s sensitivity to insulin over time. What is worse; most artificial sweeteners are far much sweeter than actual sugar, and hence they also interfere with taste buds and increase the body’s tolerance for ‘sweet’.
Studies have also linked artificial sweeteners to more serious illnesses, including certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.
Can Artificial Sweeteners Be Good For Anyone?
While we have explored that artificial sweeteners can lead to a variety of negative health impacts in the long run, it is also true that these are beneficial for some of us. For example – a diabetic patient who doesn’t like the taste of unsweetened tea/coffee can use 1 small pellet twice a day to be able to enjoy their cup of beverage. Since artificial sweeteners do not cause a spike in blood sugar levels the way real sugar does, these are safe for diabetics and pre-diabetics.
Those trying to make the switch to a healthier lifestyle and eating habits can struggle to cut down their intake of sweet foods in the beginning, and artificial sweeteners can provide a helpful ‘bridge’ while they try to wean-off sugary treats and sweetened foods.