I received the following question regarding a Blisstree post I wrote:
I read your article about several foods that we commonly mistake for being healthy. I saw the image of the fat-free, sugar-free pudding and read the description. I understand that the food probably has little to no nutritional value but I was curious why you thought sugar substitutes are unhealthy?
This is a very good question. When I was studying for my R.D. exam many moons ago I memorized a lot of information and random facts much of which I have since forgotten. One of the things I retained was the knowledge of eating disorder known as pica. Those with pica eat non-food substances such as dirt or soap; it’s quite serious. I’ve always likened eating fake foods such as sweeteners (saccharin, aspartame and sucralose), with “no nutritional value” to this disorder. If we don’t suffer from pica, what’s the appeal of food impersonators?
What was that? Oh you said the appeal is weight loss? Sorry to say that the increased use of sweeteners hasn’t made us thinner. Many sugar free foods are equal to or only slightly lower in calories than their regular counterparts. Furthermore, a study from the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that artificial sweeteners do not “turn on” satiety signals the way sugar (protein or fat) does which can encourage those eating them to eat more. And a Purdue University study showed that artificial sweeteners might actually disrupt the body’s natural ability to gauge calories. In short, sweeteners do not satisfy us and may affect our ability to achieve satiety from other foods.
Artificial sweeteners have been linked with headaches (aspartame most often connected), GI distress, insomnia and heightened PMS (no thank you). Plus, as Planet Green pointed out, as I stare at my recycling bin, there has to be a better use of the paper that goes into millions of these packets of this stuff.
The FDA says these sweeteners are safe but also finds genetically modified foods and artificial colorings safe. I have read a bunch of studies, connecting sweeteners to leukemia and brain malignancies, that don’t make them sound so safe. The truth is these sweeteners are questionable at best and only time will tell exactly. No study has tested very long term effects or synergistic potential of multiple sweeteners over a lifetime. I, for one, would rather be skeptical than sick any time. I wouldn’t give these substances to my children and therefore don’t eat them myself. I save my “chemical” ration for my hair color.
What is your sweetener, artificial or otherwise, of choice? Do you think something is safe if the FDA approves it? Have you ever had an adverse reaction to a sweetener you'd like to share?
Another post I wrote on sweeteners, the real ones.