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Do Artificial Sweeteners Help Or Are They Dangerous?

In the quest to lose weight, we all try to keep our sugar intake as low as possible.  However, we do enjoy the sugary taste so enter the use of artificial sweeteners (Let’s call these “AS” as when I write these entries at 4 am with all my typos, “sweeteners” is going to be mangled several times.)

The FDA has approved five artificial sweeteners: saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, and sucralose. It has also approved one natural low-calorie sweetener, stevia. How the human body and brain respond to these sweeteners is very complex.  Here are several reasons why AS may not be as helpful as one would think:

  1. There is research that shows that the use of AS may result in the brain seeking more sugary tastes.  So, if we down the 20 ounce Diet Coke and see the donuts in the pantry, we may feel compelled to go after that donut.
  2. The use of diet drinks may provide us a false sense of security with our other food choices:  Ever been to a McDonalds and see people ordering double Quarter Pounders with cheese, fries and a Diet Coke?
  3. AS are much more powerful than regular table sugar.  Extensive use of AS, over time, may lead to a dulling of our sugar tastes from “healthy” sugars such as ingestion of fruits.  If we do not feel the “buzz” from the fruit, then comes the Oreos and brownies that provide the more intense sugar taste we crave.
  4. There is some evidence in animal studies that chronic, high use of AS can result in addiction to these sugar substitutes.

Despite earlier claims of AS causing a higher risk of cancer, these studies have never been strong enough to warrant the discontinuation of AS usage.

Posner’s take on this:  Water is clearly the best of all fluids to be consumed.  However, many people (including me) get bored of plain water and really enjoy the caffeine boost of a cola or the taste of a flavored water.  The benefits of AS outweigh the risks and therefore the SP Program is quite fine with the use of AS as part of a weight control journey.

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