sugarKyle Heffner, Brinson Wellness Coach
September 5, 2014

Artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame (Equal ®) and sucralose (Splenda®) are popular in the many foods and beverages and are thought to help reduce the number of calories consumed, thus, are thought to be effective weight loss aids. However, artificial sweeteners have recently been shown to be more detrimental than beneficial in this regard. These synthetic sweeteners can stimulate appetite, increase carbohydrate cravings, stimulate fat storage and, ultimately result in weight gain. At least four significant studies that included a total of over 100,000 people show that users gain more weight than non-users of artificial sweeteners. Some people show greater weight gain than with sugar!

Although no definitive link to disease from the use of these sweeteners has been established, the users appear to be at a higher risk for associated weight gain and altered neurological function. Aspartame may stimulate the release of insulin and leptin, two hormones involved in satiety & fat storage. Rats given aspartame demonstrate higher glucose and insulin levels. It’s use in diabetic patients has shown that it raised insulin & leptin levels, or decreases the patient’s insulin sensitivity . Additionally, an associated decline in kidney function has been found with the consumption of only 2 artificially-sweetened beverages per day. Finally, neurobehavioral effects have been reported after using aspartame. A study in healthy adults consuming a high-aspartame diets (25 mg/Kg body weight/day) for 8 days: resulted in more irritability, more depression and worse performance on spatial orientation tests, although memory function was unchanged.
Sucralose, a chlorinated, synthetic sugar compound has been associated with reduced bacteria count in the colon in rats used in the research. FDA approved Splenda® after reviewing 110 studies (2 human, 108 animal). One 13 week study in humans found no significant changes in blood work, urinalysis and EKG tracings from the administration of sucralose. However, the studies using animals showed: 1) reduced amounts of good bacteria in the intestines by 50%, 2) increased pH levels in the intestines which may have led to increased body weights and 3) increased levels of an important cell membrane protein that helps pump medications, toxins or foreign substances out of the cell.
Although these findings were not duplicated in the human subjects, the findings warrant further studies in humans to scientifically establish the safety of both sucralose, aspartame and other synthetic sweeteners.
As natural sweetener alternatives, there are several including: raw sugar cane, honey, agave nectar, monk fruit and stevia, a sweetener originating from South America that is 40 to 450 x sweeter than sucrose.
Essentially, avoiding the use of artificial sweeteners would help reduce the risk of gaining weight as well as other health hazards.