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A not so sweet take on artificial sweeteners

I’m going to go ahead and preface this by saying I am by no means the epitome of perfect, or even great, health. That isn’t going to stop me from jumping onto my soapbox, however, to tell you how much I strongly dislike artificial sweeteners.

I had a friend who once was drinking a gallon of sweet tea – sweetened with splenda – everyday. She started noticing weird things going on with her body and we were trying to figure out what could be going on (because of course, we have our medical degrees). I had already been lecturing her about drinking that much artificial sweetener anyway so on a whim I googled “side effects of too much artificial sweetener”. What I found was a nifty little list that contained about ninety percent of what she was experiencing. She slowed down on drinking it and the side effects chilled out. This could be a complete coincidence, but I’m banking on a connection.

Not everyone consumes that much of a product in a day but I know personally of several people that do in fact chug diet soda and eat sugar-free snacks all day every day that include some form of artificial sweetener.

Artificial sweeteners – ingested in large quantities – can lead to a multitude of problems including  rashes, headaches, heart palpitations, bloating, mood changes, and a lot more small and very serious effects. If you want a more extensive list – and trust me, it goes on and on – feel free to consult with our trusty pal, Google.

The biggest thing I feel the need to mention is that eating and drinking products containing artificial sweeteners can actually make you GAIN weight. This is important because typically this is the main reason why people start using these things. If you tell me you just really, truly have always enjoyed the taste I just don’t believe you. I have tried in the past to get on the bandwagon and I just can’t do it. I can taste even the smallest amount of artificial sweetener in a product. “How will it make me gain weight,” you ask? Well, there are a couple of ways.

One, our silly little human brains don’t react the same to artificial sweeteners as they react to real sugar, so consuming something sweet (with
“fake” sugar) gets your body ready for more calories and digestion. The low calories that are typical in these sugar-free products messes with the body’s response, including insulin levels, blood sugar and hormomes. Because of this, the calories that you consumed don’t make you feel as full and screws with the signals that tell you “whoa nelly, stop eating.” You may have the willpower and awareness that you have had enough and stop yourself, but in the long run you are more prone to eat more calories later in the day.  It can also increase your carb cravings because we don’t get the fuzzy-feel good feeling that natural sugar releases in our body.

Two. The mentality that can sometimes come with diet foods and drinks is, “Oh, I’m having a diet soda so that will offset this dessert, right?” Wrong.  So in a nutshell, it is a combination of both physiological and psychological triggers that can cause the weight gain associated with overuse of artificial sweeteners. Long term use can not only cause weight gain, but obesity, heart problems and Type 2 Diabetes. Studies have shown that even drinking one diet soda a day is enough to significantly increase some of these risks.

Of course, I am not saying that drinking regular soda or scarfing down a pan of normal brownies is good for you either. As with most things, moderation is key. Too much of anything can be harmful. I just believe that a lot of people have no idea what artificial sweeteners can do to their bodies or that in the long run it could cause serious health issues. I prefer the taste of regular soda and I do drink it, but I am very aware of how bad it is and that is why I try to keep it to a minimum most of the time.

I know most people are probably rolling their eyes at this, especially since I just mentioned my love for regular soda. That’s cool, I won’t hold it against you. You are right if you are thinking that I shouldn’t judge when I have bad health habits too, and please know that I am not trying to judge, just raise awareness. I would just rather limit myself on eating and drinking the good stuff instead of going to town on a bunch of funny tasting alternatives that are going to hurt me more in the long run anyway. I reiterate: moderation is key in most things.

Really, the moral of the story should be that  we should all really take the time to learn a little bit about what is going into our bodies and the long term effects they can have on us, both diet and non-diet items. If you are consuming diet products thinking it will help you lose weight or improve your  health, think again. Replacing diet things with a large amount of regular things isn’t going to help either. Just know what you are consuming and make the best choice for yourself. If you like your diet sodas and just don’t care, disregard everything you just read. I just know if I’m going to do something unhealthy, I would rather have the good stuff, but of course in – you guessed it –  moderation.

Oh, one last note, drinking excessive amounts of any soda for years has shown in some studies to erode your teeth AS MUCH AS having a meth addiction. Sip on that.

By Skyla Sullivan • skyla@leaderpress.com

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