Sugar is old news in 2019, which means artificial sweeteners are more popular than ever. Low calorie but still super sweet, these sugar alternatives are particularly popular with people who want to eat in a way that supports their fit lifestyle. But are the benefits too good to be true?
There’s a lot of talk about the supposed side effects of artificial sweeteners, from increased weight gain to grave health risks. So what is the truth?
What are artificial sweeteners?
According to the Mayo Clinic, artificial sweeteners are are synthetic sugar substitutes. Some of the most common artificial sweeteners are aspartame, sucralose and acesulfame K. You might have also heard about “natural” sweeteners, such as stevia, erythritol and monk fruit.
While every sweetener is different, one thing they have in common is that they’re all low calorie. That’s why they’re used in diet foods, such as soft drink.
Many of these sweeteners are found in high-protein food products, including protein powder and bars. Ever wonder why Quest bars taste so good? It’s because of all the sucralose!
Are artificial sweeteners dangerous?
Sweeteners’ low-calorie status means they’ve long been championed as healthy alternatives to sugar. But are they as healthy as we think?
The biggest concern about artificial sweeteners is that they carry a cancer risk. These worries stem from research conducted on rats in the 1970s. Fortunately, further, more thorough research conducted since then has shown no link.
However, recent research suggests that some artificial sweeteners may have a detrimental effect on gut health— and not just in regards to digestion.
A study conducted on mice — which have very similar DNA to humans — found that not only did artificial sweeteners affect their metabolism, but had toxic effects on their gut microbes.
Having an imbalanced gut microbiome could have a negative impact on everything from immune function to vitamin production. In fact, the gut is directly linked to the brain, which means anything that harms your gut microbes could affect your mental state.
Can artificial sweeteners be part of a healthy diet?
Different sweeteners have different effects on the body, and some of these effects can be negative. But the issue of whether they fit into your diet or not depends entirely on your health priorities and goals.
For example, maltitol — a sugar alcohol — can spike your blood sugar. If you’re eating a ketogenic diet, consuming maltitol will throw you out of ketosis. Even keto-friendly sweeteners, such as erythritol, have been reported to cause stomach upset in some people.
Some people claim that consuming sweeteners makes them crave sweet foods even more. In fact, a study conducted on rats using the sweetener saccharin found that the rats were so addicted to saccharin that they chose it over highly-addictive cocaine.
If you’re trying to kick your sugar addiction then it might be better to quit the sweet stuff altogether— at least until your palate readjusts.
Despite this, many people are still able to incorporate sweeteners into their diet as a way to avoid sugar and keep their weight down with great success. But don’t forget that some sweeteners do have a negative effect on your microbiome, which is incredibly important to your overall health.
If you want to avoid artificial sweeteners but can’t give up the protein treats, try to go for brands that use natural sweeteners like stevia or monk fruit. Better yet, buy unsweetened protein powder and use your own sweetener of choice.
Or just keep buying that sucralose-sweetened protein powder because let’s be honest, cookies and cream-flavoured protein powder is life.
Did you know we sell protein shakers? Now you can enjoy your protein powder of choice and represent NC Fitness no matter where you are! Get in touch to see what other accessories we sell for your fitness lifestyle.