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What Artificial Sweeteners Really do to Your Body?

When no sugar, low sugar and low calorie aren’t the healthy option we think we are buying. In a time of confusing messages, foods we had considered ‘healthy’ or at least, ‘healthier’ – have now been exposed as the complete opposite. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), artificial sweeteners are potentially bad for us.

It’s been recently announced they ‘do not confer and long-term benefit in reducing body fat in adults and children’. They went one step further to say that sweeteners such as saccharine, sucralose and aspartame could actually increase the risk of conditions such as Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

This isn’t the first time there have been warnings, in March a paper from the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Institute warned about such products, revealing that patients with high levels of the zero calorie sweetener called erythritol in their blood were twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack. Last year a study in France came to a similar conclusion.

What has more recently come to light is the effect they have on the microbiome, or the ‘friendly’ bacteria in our digestive system. Artificial sweeteners stimulate inflammation of the gut, messing up cell structures, which is linked to all sorts of chronic autoimmune conditions, including Type 2 diabetes and cancer. Sweeteners won’t necessarily cause these conditions, but they can increase your risk.

However, an excess of natural sugar, or sucrose will do the same so beware of ‘reverse causality’. It is often overweight people who are likely to choose diet foods in the first place, which contain artificial sweeteners. It is common for a person trying to eat a low calorie diet from readymade meals in supermarkets, to have a diet ready meal or drink but then, – feeling virtuous – eat a high sugar milk chocolate bar or similar, or choose a low calorie ready meal and then a sweetened fruit yogurt believing it somehow balances things out and they ‘deserve’ a treat. Together, both choices will adversely impair the gut biome. A double whammy!

Seemingly harmless choices like ready made coleslaw, humus, vegan ready meals, low calorie mayonnaise, tomato ketchup, cereals, bread, sushi, pizza, soups and more, are all made more palatable by the addition of sweeteners as the Western World has had their sense of taste reduced and have developed a silent addiction to sugar.

Manufacturers of low-fat yoghurts use sweeteners to improve the ‘mouthfeel’ that deteriorates when fat is removed, for example. Flavoured yogurts are not healthy because they contain too much sugar and additives. Natural yogurts are always the best choice with the added benefits of having natural good bacteria for a healthy microbiome. If you want sweetness, add blueberries or strawberries with added benefit of having fibre too. We need to increase healthy fats back into our diet, so we feel satiated and less inclined to snack. See my other blogs for a healthy meal choice plan; The Low Blood Sugar Diet Self Help Sheet on the Treatments page and Blog with 7 Tips for Weight Management.