You probably know the negative health effects of eating too much sugar, especially added sugars like in fizzy drinks, sweets, chocolates, baked goods, and many cereals, just to name a few.
Added sugar is hiding just about everywhere in the Supermarkets.
Ingesting refined sugar spikes your blood sugar and insulin, and increases your risk for a whole host of issues.
A while ago, one of the food industry’s responses to the demand for lower-calorie foods that still taste great, was artificial sweeteners.
The idea behind them is that you can still get the sweetness, without the calories; like when you have a diet fizzy drink versus a regular one. Theoretically, this was going to help people maintain a healthy body weight, and hopefully not increase anyone’s risk of heart disease, diabetes, or obesity.
But sometimes things are just not that straight forward!
Types of artificial sweeteners
Sugar substitutes fall into several categories, but what they all have in common is that they have a sweet taste and fewer calories than plain sugar.
Today we’ll specifically discuss “artificial sweeteners,” which are synthetic chemicals where a tiny bit tastes very sweet. (They’re also known as “non-nutritive sweeteners”).
- Acesulfame potassium
Health effects of artificial sweeteners
Negative health effects from artificial sweeteners are cited all over the place, and while many studies show effects, others don’t. Cancer? Maybe, maybe not. Heart disease? Maybe, maybe not. Not to mention that much of the research has been on animals, which may or may not translate to people.
I did want to point out one ironic thing, to do with artificial sweeteners and weight.
One study found that people who tend to drink diet sodas have double the risk of gaining weight than those who didn’t.
Another study has shown an increased risk for metabolic syndrome and diabetes for those who consume diet drinks every day.
While these results don’t apply equally to everyone, they do have a common denominator don’t they?
How do artificial sweeteners affect our bodies?
Now that’s a million-dollar question!
There are so many ideas out there to try to explain it, but the reality is we don’t know for sure; plus, it might play out differently in different people.
- Is it because people feel that they can eat cake because they’ve switched to diet soda?
- Perhaps it’s because the sweeteners change the taste preferences so that fruit starts to taste worse, and veggies taste terrible?
- Maybe artificial sweeteners increase our cravings for more (real) sweets?
- It can be that the sweet taste of these sweeteners signals to our body to release insulin to lower our blood sugar; but, because we didn’t actually ingest sugar, our blood sugar levels get too low, to the point where we get sugar cravings.
- Some even say (and at least one animal study suggests) that saccharin may inspire addictive tendencies toward it.
- Maybe there is even a more complex response that involves our gut microbes and how they help to regulate our blood sugar levels.
In conclusion, we must understand that added sugar is not good for you, but the solution may not be to replace them all with artificial sweeteners.
I highly recommend reducing your sugar intake, so you naturally re-train your palate and start enjoying the taste of real food that isn’t overly sweet. This way you’re reducing your intake of added sugar, as well as not needing to replace it with artificial sweeteners.
If you’re still having sugar in tea or coffee, try having ½ teaspoon less next time. If you cook from recipes with added sugar, why not reduce the guide by say 2 oz or try replacing with natural sugars such as honey or maple sugar. Try diluting any fruit juice with water and see if you can live without squash and just drink filtered water if you need to quench your thirst.
So what about the tonic in your G and T?
If you are concerned about calorie consumption, diet/slimline tonic works the best but given the information above, are you willing to continue to ingest this ‘non food’?
If you’re not drinking G and T’s every night, then maybe a regular tonic with sugar would suit you best, but again, don’t forget this will add to your daily calorie consumption and weight will creep on when you’re not looking! I’ll leave the choice to you – maybe it’s time to change your tipple!