What Are Artificial Sweeteners, and Are They Bad For Me? 6 Possible Risks to Consider

Artificial Sweeteners: Good or Bad?

What are artificial sweeteners?

You know that routinely guzzling sugary drinks and scarfing down sweets is not a healthy habit. Doing so can lead to weight gain, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other serious diseases and complications.

But is replacing all that added sugar with low- and no-calorie sweeteners any healthier? That’s a question of ongoing debate.

The truth about artificial sweeteners.

Artificial sweeteners are sugar substitutes used to provide sweetness to foods and beverages without adding calories. They are also known as non-nutritive sweeteners or high-intensity sweeteners. These sweeteners are much sweeter than sugar, so only small amounts are needed to achieve the desired level of sweetness.

Unlike sugar, artificial sweeteners do not provide any calories or energy to the body, since they are not broken down by the digestive system.

Also see: 10 Ways to Get Rid of Indigestion Fast

List of artificial sweeteners.

The FDA regulates and approves artificial sweeteners, which are also known as high-intensity sweeteners. There are several types of artificial sweeteners, including:

  • Aspartame. Found in brands like Equal and NutraSweet, it is commonly used in diet sodas, sugar-free gum, and various low-calorie or sugar-free products.
  • Sucralose. Sold under the brand name Splenda, it is often used in a variety of foods, including baked goods, beverages, and dairy products.
  • Saccharin. Found in Sweet'N Low, it is one of the oldest artificial sweeteners and is used in many low-calorie and sugar-free products.
  • Acesulfame potassium (Ace-K). Found in products like Sunett and Sweet One, it is often used in combination with other artificial sweeteners to enhance sweetness.
  • Stevia. Derived from the leaves of the Stevia plant, it is considered a natural sweetener and is available under various brand names like Truvia and Pure Via.
  • Neotame. Similar to aspartame but even sweeter, it is used in a variety of products like soft drinks, desserts, and candies.

While artificial sweeteners are approved as safe for consumption by regulatory agencies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) when used within acceptable daily intake limits, there are some potential risks associated with their consumption:

15 Foods You Can Eat Without Gaining Weight

Are artificial sweeteners bad for you?

It’s unclear. A large number of studies have been carried out on artificial sweeteners, yet scientists are still divided in their views on their safety. We need more research to better understand exactly how artificial sweeteners affect our health. However, preliminary data suggests there might be a link between artificial sweeteners and the following six health concerns:

  • Weight gain. Paradoxically, some studies have suggested that the use of artificial sweeteners may be associated with weight gain or an increased craving for sweet and high-calorie foods. The exact reasons for this phenomenon are not fully understood but could be related to how sweeteners affect the brain's reward system.
  • Diabetes and insulin response. There is some evidence to suggest that consuming artificial sweeteners may negatively impact blood sugar levels and insulin response in certain individuals, potentially increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes. However, more research is needed to establish a clear link.
  • Gut health. Some studies have indicated that artificial sweeteners may alter the composition of gut bacteria, potentially affecting digestive health. The long-term consequences of these changes are still being studied.
  • Risk of cancer. While some older studies raised concerns about the potential carcinogenic effects of certain artificial sweeteners, subsequent research has not provided strong evidence to support these claims. Regulatory agencies have determined that most artificial sweeteners are safe for consumption.
  • Headaches and migraines. Some individuals may be sensitive to certain artificial sweeteners like aspartame, which could trigger headaches or migraines in susceptible people.
  • Allergic reactions. In rare cases, people may experience allergic reactions to specific artificial sweeteners, resulting in symptoms like hives, itching, or difficulty breathing.

It's important to note that individual responses to artificial sweeteners can vary, and what may be safe for one person might cause issues for another. Moderation and balance in dietary choices are essential. If you have concerns about the use of artificial sweeteners, consider consulting with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian to determine the best approach for your specific health needs.

7 Tips to Lower Blood Sugar Naturally

Artificial sweeteners versus sugar alcohols and natural sweeteners.

Other alternatives to sugar include sugar alcohols, such as sorbitol, xylitol, and mannitol, and natural sweeteners like stevia. (Stevia is considered a natural sweetener because it’s derived from the leaves of the stevia plant, rather than being formulated in a lab.)

Like artificial sweeteners, stevia and certain sugar alcohols are calorie-free and don’t cause a big blood sugar spike. However, some sugar alcohols do provide a small number of calories and are less sweet than artificial sweeteners and regular sugar.

Are artificial sweeteners better or worse for you than sugar?

There is not a clear answer to this question. Just as with many other diet and nutrition decisions, there are both pros and cons to substituting sugar with artificial sweeteners. Some benefits of artificial sweeteners include:

  • Providing no calories
  • Not raising blood sugar
  • Not contributing to dental issues such as cavities
  • Providing a desirable sweet taste

However, some research suggests that certain people may be at higher risk of side effects when consuming artificial sweeteners and should be extra careful to limit their intake. These people include:

  • Pregnant and lactating women
  • People with diabetes
  • Anyone with bowel disorders or absorption problems
  • People who have had or are going to have weight loss surgery
  • Those who experience migraines and epilepsy
  • Children

And while it is commonly thought that artificial sweeteners can cause cancer, there is no current evidence in humans supporting this claim.

But eating too much real sugar isn’t good for you either. If you are looking to cut back on sugar (and most people could benefit from doing so), limit your intake of both refined sugar and artificial sugar as much as possible. Here are some tips:

  • Stick to water or unsweetened tea and coffee. These are healthier than any “diet” beverage.
  • Increase your fruit intake. Apart from containing natural sugar, which can help satisfy cravings for sweets, they’re packed with vitamin C, fiber, and other nutrients.
  • When possible, it’s safer to choose natural sugars like honey, coconut sugar, or pure maple syrup — in small amounts.

If you have an underlying health condition, are unsure about the cause of your pain, or if the pain persists or worsens, consult a healthcare professional or visit or call the Nearest Emergency Room for a proper diagnosis and advice. We have board-certified physicians, nurses and staff to help you recover and give appropriate advice.

We have ER locations across the DFW metroplex that are open and here to help you 24/7 If you or your family have a medical emergency.

We have 9 facilities spread across the DFW area with average wait times of less than 10 mins that are OPEN 24/7 located in Hurst, Colleyville, Frisco, Highland Village, Hillcrest, Uptown, Little Elm, Mansfield, and Texoma.