Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are substitutes for sugars and sugar alcohols that are non-caloric and significantly sweeter than natural sugar. In the United States, the six forms of artificial sweeteners approved for use by the food and drug administration (FDA) are Acesulfame-K, Advantame, Aspartame, Neotame, Saccharin, and Sucralose.

There’s quite a bit of controversy around the potential benefits and drawbacks of artificial sweeteners, with passionate supporters and dissidents, neither of which has conclusive scientific legs to stand on.

This unfortunate inconclusiveness holds significant importance for diabetics and those at risk for diabetes. Proponents will say that the reduced calories and diminished sucrose, fructose and/or glucose sugars (“natural” sugars) will both keep the pounds off and limit the amount of sugar entering the bloodstream, helping to maintain balanced blood sugar levels. Opponents to artificial sweeteners will note the studies that have shown how ineffective artificial sweeteners are in controlling sugar cravings and that they may actually increase appetites. These elevated cravings for sweet foods and beverages, along with amplified appetites, can then lead to weight gain and obesity. Some studies have even directly linked beverages with artificial sweeteners to increased risk of type 2 diabetes incidence.

In addition to unprocessed forms of sugar used to sweeten beverages, such as honey and pure cane sugar, there are “natural” plant-based sugar substitutes such as stevia. Most of these natural sugar substitutes also are unproven as to their benefits, however, and remain untested and unapproved by the FDA. All kinds of sugary beverages at this point, including juices, have been linked to increased diabetes risk.

Given the processed nature of the drinks and foods that contain artificial sweeteners, the recommendation here is to stick to unprocessed whole foods and drinks that do not contain artificial flavoring, coloring or sweeteners, and also to avoid processed foods and beverages with added sugars.  

Resources and Further Reading

A good short summary about Artificial Sweeteners: 
https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-drinks/artificial-sweeteners/

A study showing the link between artificially flavored beverages and type 2 diabetes: 
http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/97/3/517.long

For a more detailed look at five of the FDA approved artificial sweeteners: 
https://www.diet.com/g/artificial-sweeteners

A study showed that fruit juices, but not whole fruits, raise the risk of developing type 2 diabetes: 
http://www.bmj.com/content/347/bmj.f5001

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