Do no-calorie artificial sweeteners feel like a better choice for your health? If this is the case, I would recommend you reconsider this idea for glucose levels, waist-line and overall health.
Did you know artificial sweeteners can cause glucose intolerance?
Soft drinks and yogurt are two common foods, of a long list of food items, which commonly have artificial sweeteners added to them. Even though they have been recognized to be safe by the FDA, recent studies have found that artificial sweeteners are able to alter your gut microbes, and have negative impacts on your health.
If you have been hearing anything about health these days, most likely you have come across the word microbiota. To quickly recap, the gut microbiota contains trillions of bacteria that populate your gastrointestinal tract impacting how your body operates, from your immune system to your digestion of food to how your brain functions. Research has shown that artificial sweeteners can impact health by altering the gut’s microbes.
So, what artificial sweeteners am I talking about?
Specifically the no-calorie artificial sugar substitutes which consists of any food additive that offers a sugary taste while having considerably less calories. Indeed there are some sugar substitutes that are natural, like stevia, while others are synthetic and are labeled as “artificial sweeteners.” The U.S. has approved six artificial sweeteners for consumer use: aspartame, sucralose, neotame, acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), saccharin and advantame, which all have been regarded Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) by the FDA.
The most commonly used non-caloric artificial sweeteners are saccharin (Sweet’n Low), aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet and Canderel) and sucralose (Splenda).
Most non-caloric artificial sweeteners are not digested in the GI tract and instead pass right through. Thus, they come in direct contact with microbes in the colon causing alarms to arise within the body.
How do non-caloric artificial sweeteners alter the microbiota?
Let’s take the common artificial sweetener called saccharin (Sweet’n Low) as one example. When consuming saccharin over 40 groups of bacteria have been shown to be significantly altered in copiousness amounts indicating substantial dysbiosis within the colon. To read more about dysbiosis, read my post discussing dysbiosis called Healthy Gut, a Healthier You.
Another example of the microbiota being disrupted is when individuals consume non-caloric artificial sweeteners. These sweeteners have been shown to increase glucose intolerance, which can result in metabolic syndrome and further lead to type 2 diabetes.
Thus, non-caloric artificial sweeteners alter microbiota composition and function.
Remember, the bacteria in your gut are powerful and maintain tremendous influence over how your feel.
When your gut microbiota is out of balance (aka dysbiosis), bacteria can wreak havoc and become dangerous to the function of their host (you!).
You might be saying, “oh, but I only consume it a little.”
Studies went even further to exam individuals for one week who did not normally consume non-caloric artificial sweeteners or foods containing them. In just one short week, the development of significantly lower glycemic responses and noticeable changes in their microbiota composition occurred.
So, if artificial sweeteners are off the list of foods to consume, what about natural sweeteners?
Here are two of my favorite sweeteners and why they are on my list:
Comprised of 38% fructose and 31% glucose, with the rest primarily water, raw honey contains enzymes and other proteins, trace minerals, flavonoids and other polyphenols.
Comprised mostly of sucrose, with some glucose and fructose, molasses contains 20% of the daily value for potassium, 10% for calcium and vitamin B6, 15% iron and 8% magnesium in just 1 tablespoon.
When reaching for an alternative to refined sugar and artificial sweeteners, honey and molasses are better choices to consume occasionally, as they are natural, minimally processed and contain minerals and phytonutrients that occur naturally (of course make sure it’s from a high quality).
Though all of these are sugars should be consumed in moderation. The many health-promoting benefits, especially in honey, outweigh the common downsides of consuming white sugar and other concentrated sweeteners.
Keep in mind that artificial sweeteners and refined sugar are commonly added to foods, so be sure to read the ingredients list! If refined sugar or one of these 6 artificial sugars (mentioned above) are listed make the smart choice and put it back on the shelf. A good thing to consider is if it’s not in your home, it makes it much easier to not consume. And this goes for when eating out too!
Now I’d love to hear from you…
What sweetener(s) do you enjoy consuming?
Are you willing to make a sweetener switch for your health and the health of your loved ones?
If so, which of the healthier sweetener does your heart desire?
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Hello, my name is Stacy Peterson, licensed Functional Nutritionist and Holistic Health, Wellness and Strength & Conditioning Coach with a MS in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine practicing whole-foods nutrition and physical training to individuals around the globe.
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