Sugar Part II: The problem with Artificial Sweeteners

This post is part of my series on sugar. You can find the other blogs in this series here: Sugar Part I: High Fructose Corn Syrup Sugar Part III: Refined White Sugar Sugar Part IV: Natural Ways to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

In Part I of this series we addressed High Fructose Corn Syrup and I said that the next post in the series would address refined white sugar. But, today I’m adding a post about artificial sweeteners, also known as sugar substitutes or low-calorie sweeteners. I hadn’t planned on addressing artificial sweeteners; in fact it didn’t even cross my mind. I guess because I’d never used them and my family has never used them they aren’t really on my radar. But, as I was hopping through the blogosphere this morning I found a number of posts for sugar free recipes and I was disappointed to see that they all just substituted artificial sweeteners for sugar. After being surprised by how many people out there are using these sugar substitutes I decided that I needed to dedicate a whole post to the topic and jumped into researching.

The appeal of sugar substitutes and low-calorie sweeteners is that they are exactly what their name says: LOW-CALORIE. Artificial sweeteners are made from chemicals that provide the taste of sweetness without the calories usually contained in sugar or sweet foods. They are often MUCH sweeter than sugar which means that you can use a lot less of them and still get a sweet taste. They also don’t raise blood sugar levels the way that sugar does so they are often used by people with diabetes. These sound like pretty good things.

There’s so much that can be said about Artificial Sweeteners – and there’s plenty of debate as to whether they are ok for you or not. There are independent studies that say that artificial sweeteners cause cancer and other health problems, even though there are also a lot of studies saying that they are fine for you (most of which were funded by those with a vested interest). Honestly, I don’t really want to get into the whole debate on all of the different artificial sweeteners.

Here’s my two cents: Artificial Sweeteners are NOT real food. They are NOT natural. They are made in a lab. Not only that, but they are also very new comparatively. Our bodies have never had to deal with the consumption of these chemicals before. So, I avoid them. Personally I choose to eat real food that is traditionally prepared as much as possible and whenever possible. Artificial sweeteners do not fit into that category. Plus, I say why use them? There are natural sweeteners that are also low-calorie and don’t spike insulin, like Stevia, so why go for the artificial stuff when you can use real stuff?

Some argue that the very fact that these super sweet sweeteners are low in calories could be problematic. I found this quote shared on the blog Kelly the Kitchen Kop to be a very interesting take on this. It made a lot of sense to me:

"God created sweet taste to represent quick energy. That’s why you see tennis players at the U.S. Open peeling a banana during changeovers; they need the quick energy from bananas and other sweet fruits. When artificial non-caloric sweeteners are consumed, the sweet taste but not the calories are there, and the body receives mixed signals. In addition, since the body expects calories with sweet taste, the body craves other foods to get those calories.”

I personally choose to avoid artificial sweeteners and I do not encourage others to use them, but everyone has to make their own informed decisions. So, do your research before using artificial sweeteners and then make whatever decision you are most comfortable with.

If Artificial Sweeteners are something you are interested in knowing more about here are some resources and references for further reading. There are of course tons more out there and a simple google search will give you plenty, but here are some places to start:

Rejoicing in the journey - Beth Stedman