Most people who are trying to lose weight know that cutting down on sugar is essential. But the temptation of sweet things makes it challenging to eliminate sugar entirely. Artificial sweeteners are a popular alternative, widely available in every diet soda or low-calorie dessert. They are calorie-free and seem like a miracle solution.
But are they really a healthy alternative? Artificial sweeteners still activate the sweetness receptors in our bodies, even if they have no calories. Our body responds to sweetness by releasing insulin, which tells fat cells to store sugar as fat. This leads to a drop in blood sugar levels, making us feel hungry and crave more food. Drinking a diet drink can make us feel hungry, even if we weren't before we drank it.
Artificial sweeteners reduce the ability of sweet-tasting foods to signal satiety. The body learns that sweet doesn't necessarily mean calories, so we don't respond by eating less when we consume real sugar.
Several types of artificial sweeteners are commonly used, and all have downsides. Sucralose is 600 times sweeter than sugar, while neotame is 8,000 times sweeter. Acesulfame-K is 180 times sweeter, and saccharin is 300 times sweeter than sugar. Even sodium cyclamate is 30 to 50 times sweeter than sugar. Artificially sweetened beverages are associated with an increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and coronary heart disease.
Artificial sweeteners can also alter the composition of our gut microbes, reducing our tolerance for glucose. They pass directly into the large intestine, where beneficial gut bacteria live. Dysbiosis occurs when harmful changes occur in gut bacteria. Studies have shown that consuming artificial sweeteners changes the abundance of over 40 different types of gut bacteria, causing metabolic problems leading to diabetes and obesity. The types of bacteria favored by artificial sweeteners are the same ones found in the guts of people with type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Giving up artificial sweeteners and sugar may seem challenging at first, but after a few weeks, our taste buds will regain the ability to sense the sweetness in fruits and vegetables, increasing the palatability of healthier foods.
We will discover that the natural sweetness of fruits is more satisfying than the artificial sweetness of candies and pastries. By eliminating artificial sweeteners from our diet, we can avoid metabolic problems and improve our gut health.
To summarise then artificial sweeteners are not a healthy alternative to sugar. They can cause metabolic problems, increase our risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes, and alter our gut microbiome.