When people “quit sugar” they often switch to an artificial, calorie-free sweetener. Today, these sweeteners are widely used in soft drinks, chewing gum, candy, jellies, dairy products and many other foods and drinks.

There are six FDA approved calorie-free sweeteners: acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, saccharin, Stevia and sucralose. Any product that is labelled “sugar free” or “diet” contains one or more of these sweeteners. Just what is in these sweeteners and are they any healthier than sugar?

Artificial Sweeteners and Weight Gain

Sweeteners give you all the sweetness of sugar with none of the calories. They are a good alternative for diabetics because they have no effect on blood sugar levels. What more could you ask for, right?

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Research shows that artificial sweeteners may be beneficial in the short-term but can lead to weight gain in the long term. Even though they are calorie-free, they are still capable of stimulating the development of new fat cells.

Artificial Sweeteners and Cravings

Sugar substitutes keep your sugar cravings alive. They may be able to fool your taste buds but they can’t fool your brain.

When you consume a sugary treat, dopamine, the pleasure and reward chemical, is released in the brain. Unfortunately, artificial sweeteners do not trigger the release of dopamine, so the cravings do not go away. As a result, you’re more likely to binge on sugar and other unhealthy foods later on.

In addition, artificial sweeteners are several times sweeter than sugar and regular use can desensitize you to sweetness. This makes it harder for you to enjoy healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables because their natural sweetness will never be good enough for your sweet tooth. If you really want to get rid of your sweet tooth, you have to give up both sugar and sweeteners.

The Verdict

For decades, there has been a lot of speculation about artificial sweeteners and whether or not they cause health problems. Many health agencies, including the National Cancer Institute, say that there is no sound scientific evidence that any of the FDA-approved sweeteners cause serious health problems.

The FDA has come up with an acceptable daily intake in grams for each of the sweeteners. This is the maximum amount that a healthy adult can consume per day over a lifetime without experiencing negative health effects. The numbers can be confusing, so just know that the acceptable daily intake is 100 times less than the smallest amount that can cause health problems. Click this link to be taken to the FDA’s website page on artificial sweeteners: Artificial Sweeteners.

Artificial sweeteners can help you wean yourself off sugar, especially if you are not ready to give up sugary foods and drinks just yet. However, the sugar cravings won’t go away until you give up both sugar and artificial sweeteners.

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