Chemicals in food are often referred to as “food additives” and they are classified according to the function they perform within the food. Within these groups of selected additives, it is necessary to know that compounds and substances that are really harmful to the body coexist with us. Among them, we can highlight the group of artificial sweeteners.
Artificial Sweeteners Defined
Artificial sweeteners are synthetic chemicals that stimulate sweet taste receptors on the tongue. They are usually considered low in calories or non-nutritive sweeteners.
All artificial sweeteners are chemically processed. They may come added during food preparation. You can also add them while eating. Most diet products or low-calorie foods that you buy at the store are made using artificial sweeteners.
The beverage and food industries use artificial and natural sweeteners in various products such as chewing gum, snacks, beverages, dairy, among others, taking advantage of its low caloric content and its high sweetening power that makes very little of the product required to have the same sweet sensation as sugar. Even the pharmaceutical industry has included its use in particular drugs.
Artificial Sweeteners and Weight loss
Because of their sweet taste and they do not provide calories, artificial sweeteners seem to be an effective solution for weight loss. However, as described in a 2008 article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the seemingly obvious health benefits expected from sugar substitutes have not materialized. Studies on the effect of these chemicals on weight loss vary from one another.
There is evidence linking artificial sweeteners to the development of glucose intolerance, a metabolic condition that results in an excessive rise in blood glucose levels.
According to a study published in Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism, frequent consumption of noncaloric, sweet-tasting foods interferes with metabolic function.
Another study on the metabolic syndrome found that daily consumption of beverages with artificial sweeteners can increase the risk of this disease by 35% and 67% for type 2 diabetes.
And here the question arises as to how these sweeteners are metabolized in our bodies if, in the end, the sweetening effect is the same? When we ingest table sugar, i.e., sucrose, it is metabolized and converted to glucose, which goes directly to the blood.
While aspartame , for example, composed of two amino acids, is metabolized in the intestine and its waste products are eliminated the same as it happens during the metabolism of proteins.
Another example is stevia , which is not converted to glucose, so when we consume this noncaloric sweetener, the concentration of glucose in the blood does not increase.
Artificial Sweeteners Can Trick Your Brain
How the human body and brain respond to these sweeteners is very complex. One of the concerns is that people who use artificial sweeteners can replace lost calories through other sources thus counteracting the weight loss or health benefits.
It is also believed that these products can change the way we taste food. Non-nutritive sweeteners are much more potent than table sugar. A tiny portion produces a sweet taste comparable to sugar without the added calories.
Over-stimulation of sugar receptors by frequent use of these powerful sweeteners may limit the tolerance of more complex flavors, and people who routinely use artificial sweeteners may begin to feel sweet foods less intensely such as fruits or vegetables that are not sweet and less palatable.
In other words, the use of artificial sweeteners can make you more prone to avoid nutritious and healthy foods and consume more artificially flavored food with less nutritional value.
Research suggests they can prevent us from associating the sweet taste with caloric intake. This means they can increase the craving for sweets and the tendency to choose sugary foods rather than nutritious food and as a result gain weight.
Participants in a study who drank more than 21 diet drinks on a weekly basis were more likely to be overweight or obese than people who did not drink these beverages.
The science journal Nature published a study in which an experiment was conducted mostly on mice but included seven people who did not regularly consume artificial sweeteners. The sweetener used was saccharin [/su_highlight] but some tests were also performed which included aspartame and sucralose .
Both some mice and people had an increase in blood sugar levels 2 to 3 times above normal and changes in the types of intestinal microbes. The findings differ from the appreciation that artificial sweeteners are not absorbed in the digestive tract and do not affect blood sugar or glucose tolerance which may be indicative of diabetes.
Artificial Sweeteners and Obesity
Although Americans consume more sweeteners, the waistlines continued to expand. Cause and effect are ambiguous: Sweeteners can cause weight gain, but perhaps people who are more likely to gain weight will consume the most sweeteners.
Epidemiologists at the University of Texas Health Science Center conducted a 9-year study with 5,158 adult residents of San Antonio, Texas, and found a relationship between sweeteners and obesity.
“These findings raise the question of whether the use of artificial sweeteners could be fueling – rather than struggling – our growing obesity epidemic,” they wrote.
The American Heart Association and American Diabetes Association reviewed the safety of artificial sweeteners in 2012 and concluded that they should be judiciously consumed as a way to reduce sugar consumption.
The American Heart Association also recommends that the added processed sugars be limited to an average of 6 teaspoons per day for women and nine teaspoons for men.
At present, the average consumption of processed sugar in the American diet is 22 teaspoons and about 45 gallons of sugary drinks a year. The American Heart Association advises for adults no more than 36 ounces which are equivalent to 450 calories or one week of drinks with added sugars.
The conclusion of this article is that you choose what you want to consume, but pay close attention to the content of food, it is not necessary to mention that natural foods (fruits and vegetables ..) are incomparably more nutritious and healthier than industrial foods.
Try to eat healthily and avoid as far as possible the artificial/industrial or of dubious origin. It is important that you assert your rights and be constantly instructed in the final content of your diet, claim the information when the product packaging does not supply it.