While it might be hard to ditch the packets of sugar in your morning double espresso, here's the thing: taking in artificial sweeteners, in place of real sugar, isn't better for you. In fact, it has its own slew of problems. If you're using artificial sweeteners every day, you might be exposing your body to several, dangerous problems, which can lead to even worse health conditions down the road. So, it's time to kick that nasty habit.
As a certified health coach, I work with clients on keeping their bodies in tip-top shape, and often ingesting artificial sweeteners can be pretty harmful. While having regular sugar isn't much better, as it's ideal to cut back on sugary additives and get used to the taste of darker coffee, for instance, artificial sweeteners affect the brain and body in their own, troublesome ways. Plus, it's hard to stop at just one packet a day: usually you put in a few in a sitting, or at least have a few throughout the day (if you're at all like I am, you'll probably have two or three coffees a day). If you think you might have a problem, consider reading these 9 warning signs and using them as motivation to forgo the bad stuff.
1. Uncontrollable Cravings
According to Darin Hulslander, Performance and Nutrition Coach, over email with Bustle, "The artificial sweeteners in diet soda have been proven to trigger the brain’s reward center - the part that craves food (often in the form of sugar). This leads to becoming hungry more often and sometimes even in the form of sweets. So even though diet soda is also zero calories, it can lead to more calories in foods we do eat and an increased appetite."
2. Higher Risk Of Disease
"In one study, drinking diet soda daily was associated with a 67% greater risk of developing type 2 Diabetes. Plus, diet soda drinkers have a 36% greater risk of developing metabolic syndrome, which includes elevated blood pressure, high blood sugar and cholesterol, and an increased waistline," says Holistic Health Coach, Amy Kaneff, owner of Thrive With Amy, over email with Bustle.
3. Nutritional Deficiencies
"Food additives and sweeteners make a difference in our eating habits and brain patterns. Even if these food additives or sweeteners provide no sugar or calories, they simulate the sweet sensation in the foods they are added to," says Nutritionist Jennifer Insel, MS based in New York City over email with Bustle. "Sweeteners and flavorings are mostly added to processed or unhealthy, nutrient void foods. So by increasing the amount of sweeteners in your diet, you will inevitably be increasing the amount of processed foods you eat. These foods are rarely satisfying to hunger and as a result will lead to an increase in poor food choices. It’s rare you’d find added sweeteners to vegetables or desire putting Splenda on your broccoli," Insel explains.
4. Changes In The Microbiome
"One reason why artificial sweeteners may cause problems is that they can adversely affect our microbiomes (the healthy bacteria that live in our intestines). We don’t know a lot about the microbiome yet, so we’ll have to wait for more studies to illustrate what is really going on. Fortunately, we’re learning more all the time, and we now know that some artificial sweeteners do change our microbiomes," says Benjamin White, PhD MPH RD LDN with Structure House, over email with Bustle. "Limited evidence suggests that they reduce our sensitivity to insulin, an important metabolic hormone, and that they may change the brain’s responses to regular sugar in areas like the amygdala," White adds.
5. Change In Taste Receptors
Over email with Bustle, Lauren Blake, RD, at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, "It’s also possible that these products change the way we taste food. Non-nutritive sweeteners are far more potent than table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. A minuscule amount produces a sweet taste comparable to that of sugar, without comparable calories." Plus, "overstimulation of sugar receptors from frequent use of these sweeteners may limit tolerance for more complex tastes. That means people who routinely use artificial sweeteners may start to find less intensely sweet foods, such as fruit, less appealing and unsweet foods, such as vegetables, unpalatable," Blake explains.
Blake says that "animal studies suggest that artificial sweeteners may be addictive. In studies of rats who were exposed to cocaine, then given a choice between intravenous cocaine or oral saccharine, most chose saccharin." This is a pretty scary thought, realizing that cocaine is such a powerful drug to begin with.
7. Memory Complications
According to Dr. Mercola on his website, consuming artificial sweeteners each day can lead to impaired cognition, worsened memory, and other brain issues, as it directly impacts your neural senses. Instead, switch to all natural sources in moderation to avoid such dangerous consequences.
8. Depressive Symptoms
If you take in too many artificial sweeteners, you might be setting yourself up for depressive symptoms, due to an interference in the brain's neural pathways and production of serotonin, the "happiness" hormone. Plus, if you have a history of depression, you should be even more cautious.
9. Weight Gain
If you're eating artificial sweeteners, you might notice you're gaining weight, as the substance can mess with your gut and stomach health, causing you to have greater fat storage. Not all weight gain is bad, but if this is a problem for you personally, try cutting out the sweeteners and see if the weight fluctuation stops.
If you are adding something sweet to your morning coffee or afternoon tea, it might be best to put down the packets and add some natural flavoring instead.