Artificial sweeteners have become common in our society and we no longer give them a second thought. Sadly, many have lowered their intake of sugar just to increase artificial sweeteners. I personally avoid ALL artificial sweeteners and let me explain why.

Artificial sweeteners are classified as non-nutritive sweeteners (NNS) or sugar alcohols. NNS do nothing positive for our body and do not supply any nutrition such as calories, vitamins, or minerals. Sugar alcohols do contain carbohydrates as calories in small amounts.

There are many studies that show artificial sweeteners can be just as bad and maybe worse than sugar. Scientists at Harvard have found that artificial sweeteners significantly raise the risk of metabolic syndrome, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and nonalcoholic fatty liver. Cardiovascular (heart attack) and cerebrovascular disease (stroke) are the No. 1 and No. 5 killers in this country. Diabetes ranks No. 7. The NNS sweeteners were all tested and proven safe from ‘causing cancer’ which was the only criteria to before bringing to market.

Sweetness is additive. This means you need more and more to be satisfied. The more artificial sweeteners you use, the more insulin your body secretes. Insulin is the hormone that causes fat to be stored in your body. Belly fat is the result.

Artificial sweeteners alter taste and food preferences making it difficult to enjoy the healthy foods that our bodies need. It may be worse to drink diet colas than regular colas. Of course, table sugar in any form such should be limited.

Each new artificial (NNS) sweetener is more potent as our sweet cravings increase. Artificial sweeteners are 200-20,000 times sweeter than table sugar. Yes, that is twenty thousand and not a typo!

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What are the artificial (NNS) sweeteners?

• Saccharin or Sweet and Low, the pink stuff. It was discovered in 1879 but not approved as a food additive until 1977.

• Aspartame or Equal. This is the blue stuff and was discovered in 1965. Aspartame is added to many foods including juice, gum, vitamins and over the counter products. Aspartame is broken down in the body into methanol and then into formaldehyde.

• Acesulfame potassium or Sweet one was discovered in 1967 and found in many colas

• Neotame or Nutrasweet was approved as a food additive in 2002.

• Adantame is the newest artificial sweetener and is not common in the US yet.

• Sucralose or Splenda is in the yellow packets.

• Stevia or Truvia in the green packets is the only artificial sweetener I feel is alright to use in moderation. Stevia is extracted from the leaves of the stevia plant from South America. I encourage organic Stevia that leaves out maltodextrin (corn) and nebulous natural flavors.

What are Sugar Alcohols?

• Hybrid of alcohol and sugar but does NOT contain sugar or alcohol/ethanol

• Includes Erythritol, lactitol, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol

• Some are found naturally in fruits and vegetables.

• Often used in gum and toothpaste since they have a ‘cooling sensation’ and are less cavity promoting than table sugar.

• Sugar alcohols pass through to the large intestine and are fermented or eaten by gut bacteria. Therefore gas, bloating and diarrhea may occur. Erythritol is the least likely to cause gut issues.

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• Sugar alcohols are 30-100% sweeter than table sugar

Any sweetener including table sugar should be consumed in very small amounts. Choose healthy sweeteners such as:

• Sucrose or table sugar which naturally comes from sugar beets or sugar cane

• Molasses

• Honey

• Agave nectar

• Monk fruit extract

• Stevia

Live long, live healthy!