Artificial Sweeteners’ Side Effects and Natural Sugar Substitutes

by Isabel De Los Rios

Artificial Sweeteners' Side Effects and Natural Sugar Substitutes

Not too long ago I randomly stumbled across an episode of “The Dr. OZ Show” that I ended up watching with my mom. The first thing I saw was Dr. Oz rolling out a cart filled with pink, blue, and yellow packets…yes, a huge cart filled with packets of artificial sweeteners.

The topic of the show was artificial sweeteners’ side effects and what are natural sugar substitutes that are better alternatives. Dr. Oz had two other physicians on the show with him to discuss recent research and facts. You better believe I kept the TV on (and my mom was all ears as well).

Yes, I know what the answer is…artificial sweeteners are nothing but BAD news and I cover the reasons why pretty extensively in The Diet Solution Program, but I really wanted to see what type of studies have been done most recently on the topic and where these three doctors currently stand on the whole artificial sweetener debate and how strongly they’d discuss the dangerous side effects.

They stated some great facts that are backed up by piles of research. Mainly…

· People who use artificial sweeteners are usually heavier than those who don’t use them. This may be linked to increased hunger signals that are sent to the brain and increased sweet cravings that lead to overeating.

· People who use artificial sweeteners are more likely to be insulin resistant because their insulin receptors are confused all the time. Your body is thinking “What is this fake stuff you’re giving me? Is it food? Is it not? I don’t know what you want me to do with it?,” leading to blood sugar and insulin imbalance. This one leads to the third and most shocking finding for many people in the audience…

· People who use artificial sweeteners are TWICE as likely to get Type 2 Diabetes than people who don’t use artificial sweeteners. TWICE? Oh goodness. I knew that artificial sweeteners had been directly linked to diabetes but I did not know that the number was so high. I decided to look up this fact myself and YES, studies have shown (as presented in the most recent annual meeting of the Endocrine Society) “People who use artificial sweeteners are heavier, twice as likely to have diabetes, and more likely to be insulin-resistant compared with nonusers.”

My mom, who was sitting right next to me is a Type 2 Diabetic and has had her fair share of health complications due to her diabetes. She said, “I sure wish my doctor would have told me these facts years ago when we discussed my diabetes. Actually, the hospital dietician encouraged me to use those artificial sweeteners in an effort to decrease my sugar and calorie consumption.”

Well, that was many years ago and I do believe our medical community is a lot more informed on these nutrition topics now than ever before, but even with this increased research and knowledge I still see people using those little pink, blue and yellow sweetener packets everywhere I go. Uggghhhh!

Next, the three doctors began discussing healthier alternatives and one of the first things said was…

“If you’re going to choose from these three packets, I would choose Splenda [yellow packet] since it is the only one, up to this point, that has not been linked to cancer yet.”

Dr. Oz quickly came back with “Well, wouldn’t you say that could be because it has been on the market the least amount of time and has been studied the least? We do not have any long term studies on its long term effects because it just has not been around long enough.”

Yeah Dr. Oz! I couldn’t agree more. I don’t always agree with everything he says, but this is a great point. Let’s not let manufacturers and food companies use us as their guinea pigs. We really have no idea what the long term damage of Splenda is, but what we do know is that it will increase appetite and disrupt blood sugar and insulin levels, two things we absolutely don’t want when attempting to lose weight and achieve ideal health.

Now, what were some of the healthy natural sugar substitutes that don’t have dangerous side effects as artificial sweeteners? They laid out three choices.

Honey

Honey is a wonderful and natural alternative to artificial sweeteners and sugar, but it must be raw. All three doctors kept going on and on about how healthy honey is and that it contained many health benefits (it is a great immune system booster, has been found to contain anti-cancer properties, helps relieve arthritis pain and assists in relieving ailments like yeast infection and athletes foot), but they did not emphasize enough that these properties have only been found in RAW honey and not pasteurized and processed honey.

Look for honey that looks thick and cloudy and specifically says “RAW” on the label. As with absolutely every food, be sure to use it in moderation and pay close attention to your body’s response after consuming it. I use approximately 1-2 tsps of raw honey each day in my tea or on Ezekiel bread toast with almond butter…one of my favorite pre-workout snacks.

Truvia

Truvia has gotten quite a bit of attention in the media lately because it contains stevia (a natural and healthy alternative to artificial sweeteners) but can be found at almost any local supermarket and is much cheaper than stevia. But there is a reason why. It is not pure and contains other ingredients.

When I read the label on the Truvia box it says…

Erythritol, Rebiana, and Natural Flavors

Erythritol is a natural sugar alcohol and Rebiana comes directly from the Stevia plant (though it is a processed form), but what makes me even more reluctant to use Truvia is the “Natural Flavors.” When you click on the “natural flavors” link on Truvia’s website to get a better explanation of what these natural flavors really are, all it says is, “Natural Flavors are used to bring out the best of our natural sweetness, like pepper or salt would be used to heighten the taste of a meal.”

What? What does that mean? That doesn’t tell me anything or indicate exactly what these natural flavors are and whether or not it could be harmful to our health.

So I don’t recommend Truvia. What I recommend is natural, 100% pure Stevia (the highest quality and most natural one we’ve found is from Body Ecology). That is the brand I use and feel safe and confident using and recommending it.

Agave Nectar/Syrup

The most recent research on agave is quite extensive and somewhat controversial. Because this is a very important topic and one that contains loads of great information, I am going to cover it all on its own in a separate post.

For now..

1. Be sure to read the labels of every food you may think may contain artificial sweeteners. This is many more products than you would expect – bread, yogurt, cereal, low sugar drinks. Look for saccharin, aspartame, and/or sucralose and if you see one of these in the ingredients list, avoid it at all costs. The side effects of artificial sweeteners go well beyond what we discussed here, so let it be sufficient to say that you can not be overly diligent in never allowing them into your body.

2. Use natural RAW honey and/or 100% pure stevia for all of your sweetening needs. A little of each goes a really long way and you’ll find that the less you use, the less you’ll desire that sweet taste. Other fantastic natural alternatives that we use are real maple syrup and lakanto.

3. Embrace foods in their natural state. I now find herbal teas and hot oatmeal, two things I used to sweeten with a ton of sweetener, are delicious unsweetened. Once you become accustomed to eating foods without adding any sweetener, you’ll find that any sweet food is just too sweet for your new palate and you’ll actually enjoy natural foods much more. Until then, natural sugar substitutes are significantly healthier than their chemical counterparts.

About the author...

 is a certified nutritionist and exercise specialist who has already helped over 25,000 people all over the world lose incredible amounts of weight, regain their health and permanently change their lives. She is the creator and author of Beyond Diet, a whole foods, lifestyle approach to managing weight.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Kelly May 15, 2012

This is disheartening. For people who have weight problems so extreme that it threatens their health, artificial sweeteners are often a necessity to experience any weight loss success. We need books and articles that provide ideas for a successful diet plan that can be utilized without artificial sweeteners. I have experienced success with the Dukan diet. It would’t be possible without artificial sweeteners

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Brad May 16, 2012

Hi Kelly. It’s not meant to be disheartening, but enlightening. So many people who try to lose weight and switch to the artificial sweeteners either see no success, and if they do, most often put the weight back on. Then they really frustrated and give up. The reason is typically because the root cause was not addressed…making a lifestyle change to no longer depends on sweets and be controlled by cravings. We hope this information and other articles on Fooduciary help people make real, lasting change. When you eat natural foods, you never have to worry about counting another calorie again. If your diet is based on whole foods, with a focus on vegetables as what fills up the majority of your plate, you can’t help but achieve your ideal weight.

I’m not familiar with the Dukan diet, but if that’s the plan you choose to go with, try Stevia as the sweetener instead. A book we can highly recommend that does have a successful diet plan is the Blood Sugar Solution by Dr. Mark Hyman. You can read our review here: https://fooduciary.com/the-blood-sugar-solution/.

Hope that helps! We want to support you in any way we can.

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