The Unbiased Truth About Artificial Sweeteners

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Artificial sweeteners continue to be a controversial public health issue, and the research keeps coming. In fact, a new study on artificial sweeteners and weight loss was just published on Monday, and the FDA approved a new artificial sweetener (advantame) last Wednesday.

On one hand, many people are adamantly opposed to the use of artificial sweeteners because of the purported link with increased risk for cancer and other diseases. But on the other hand, artificial sweeteners are becoming increasingly popular as people try to reduce calorie consumption and lose weight.

There’s too much research out there to cover comprehensively in a blog article, but I’ll try to cover the basics: will artificial sweeteners give you cancer or other diseases? Do they actually help with weight loss, or do they hurt? And ultimately, should you be eating them?

Find out if artificial sweeteners are helpful, harmless, or toxic in this in-depth article by @ChrisKresser.

Cancer

Artificial sweeteners were first tied to cancer risk in the 1970’s after a study showed that a combination of saccharin and cyclamate (another early artificial sweetener) caused bladder cancer in lab rats. The mechanism behind these effects was later found to be specific to rats and not generalizable to other animals or humans (in these rats, comparable doses of vitamin C can also cause bladder cancer), and further studies demonstrated that neither sweetener is carcinogenic. (1, 2)

However, this study cast a shadow of doubt over artificial sweeteners, and thanks in part to the media’s penchant for blowing things way out of proportion, the reputation of artificial sweeteners has never recovered.

A later study suggested a link between aspartame consumption and brain tumors. The authors based this hypothesis on the fact that both brain cancer and aspartame consumption had increased since 1980 – despite not knowing whether the people getting brain tumors actually consumed artificial sweeteners – and on a rat study where aspartame supplemented diets led to the formation of brain tumors. (3)

This association has been more or less dismissed by the research community because three case-control studies have found no association between brain tumors and aspartame consumption, and subsequent animal studies haven’t been able to replicate the aspartame-induced brain tumors found in the original rat study. (4)

Artificial sweeteners have also been implicated in the development of lymphoma and leukemia, and one observational study found a weak link between artificial sweetener consumption and development of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and multiple myeloma in men, but not in women. (5) The study authors concluded that due to the inconsistency in their results, there isn’t likely a causal link, although it can’t be ruled out.

Artificial sweeteners have also been tested for associations with other cancers, including breast, pancreatic, stomach, colon, and endometrium, with no correlations found. (6) Based on the evidence, I don’t think artificial sweeteners are a huge risk factor for cancer, although the possibility can’t be ruled out and caution is warranted.

Diabetes, Heart Disease, and Metabolic Syndrome

Artificial sweeteners have also been increasingly tied to increased risk for developing metabolic syndrome and related diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Numerous observational studies have attempted to parse out a consistent association with disease risk, but for every study that has linked artificial sweetener consumption with metabolic syndrome, heart disease, or diabetes, there’s another that has found no association. (7, 8, 9)

This inconsistency shouldn’t come as a surprise, given the inherent limitations of observational evidence, but because there’s little to no clinical evidence in humans to test these hypotheses, the effect of artificial sweeteners on risk for these diseases remains inconclusive.

Pre-term Delivery

There has been concern in recent years over a potential link between artificial sweetener consumption and pre-term delivery, prompted by two observational studies published in 2010 and 2012. (10, 11) These studies have significant limitations: the associations are small and not linearly dose-dependent; not all artificially-sweetened beverages were accounted for; and women who consume more artificially sweetened drinks also tend to smoke more, have higher BMI, and lower socioeconomic status. (12) All told, the risk seems small, but I would advise pregnant women to avoid artificial sweeteners just to be on the safe side.

Weight Loss

For most people, the primary motivation for consuming artificial sweeteners is a desire to reduce calorie consumption and lose weight. But do artificial sweeteners actually help achieve that goal? Yet again, the evidence is mixed. Many observational studies have found a positive association between artificial sweetener intake and obesity, but in this situation, reverse-causality is particularly likely. (13, 14, 15, 16)

In other words, while it’s possible that artificial sweeteners contributed to weight gain in these studies, it’s also possible that people who are overweight are more likely to choose diet beverages and other artificially sweetened foods in an effort to lose weight. We also have a decent number of clinical trials testing the weight loss effects of artificial sweeteners in humans, although many are too short-term to have much practical significance.

In one study, overweight subjects were given supplements of either sucrose or artificial sweeteners for 10 weeks. (17) At the end of the trial period, subjects in the artificial sweetener group on average had experienced a reduction in weight, fat mass, and blood pressure, while subjects in the sucrose group gained weight and had increased blood pressure.

A study just published this week on weight loss and artificial sweeteners was surprisingly positive: over a 12-week period, participants who were instructed to drink 24 ounces of artificially sweetened beverages every day actually lost more weight than participants who were instructed to drink 24 ounces of water daily. (18) (It’s worth noting that this study was fully funded by The American Beverage Association.) Other trials have also shown successful calorie reduction and weight loss in participants who consumed artificial sweeteners (usually in the form of beverages). (19, 20, 21)

Based on this evidence, it seems that artificial sweeteners can be helpful for weight loss in some circumstances, at least over the short term. However, due to the limited nature of these studies and the evidence I’ll present next, I hesitate to draw any conclusions.

Do Artificial Sweeteners ‘Confuse’ The Body?

For most of human history, sweeteners were inextricably tied to caloric density. If our sweet taste receptors evolved primarily to help us identify calorie-rich food sources, how will our bodies respond when our taste receptors are consistently bombarded with sweetness, but with no concomitant calorie surge?

Animal models certainly indicate that artificial sweeteners can impair the innate ability to regulate caloric intake. Rats who are fed with artificial sweeteners consistently gain more weight than rats who are fed with glucose or sucrose. (22, 23) Additionally, the rats don’t tend to lose the excess weight, even after their diets are switched back to glucose or sucrose to re-establish the calorie-predictive nature of sweet taste.

Interestingly, rats who were given stevia solutions gained significantly more weight than the glucose-fed rats, and similar amounts of weight to the saccharin-fed rats. (24) Rats fed with artificial sweeteners also develop an impaired ability to respond to sugar-containing foods. In one study, rats who had been fed artificial sweeteners were unable to compensate for the calorie content of a sugar preload by eating less chow afterwards, while rats who had been fed sugar-containing food compensated almost perfectly for the extra calories in the preload by eating less chow. (25)

Rats that have been conditioned with saccharin also display a reduced thermic effect in response to consumption of a caloric sugar-containing meal, as well as higher blood glucose, compared with rats who had been conditioned with glucose. (26, 27) Additionally, saccharin-fed rats secreted less GLP-1 (which is implicated in satiety and glucose homeostasis) when given a sugar-containing test meal. (28)

Unfortunately, although the animal evidence is fairly robust, evidence in humans is limited. However, two interesting studies that used MRI to measure brain responses to sucrose solutions indicate that artificial sweeteners may alter the brain’s response to sweet tastes in humans. In one study, people who regularly consume artificially sweetened drinks had higher reward responses to both saccharin and sucrose compared with people who don’t consume artificial sweeteners. (29)

Additionally, people who don’t consume artificial sweeteners had different brain responses to the saccharin and sucrose, while those who regularly consume artificial sweeteners responded the same to both sweeteners. Another study found that the amygdala’s response to sucrose consumption was inversely related to artificial sweetener use. (30) (The amygdala is part of the brain that is involved with taste-nutrient conditioning.)

Should You Be Eating Artificial Sweeteners?

My conclusion might seem a little anticlimactic after all that information, but the point I’d like to drive home is that artificial sweeteners are extremely new to the human diet, and for modern, industrial foods, the operating principle should always be “guilty until proven innocent.” We’ve conducted what are essentially population-wide experiments with the introduction of other industrial foods (such as high omega-6 vegetable oils) because the initial evidence seemed promising, and we can see how well that worked out.

Despite some successful short-term weight loss studies, I don’t think the potential therapeutic effects of artificial sweeteners have been demonstrated clearly enough thus far to warrant widespread consumption, especially given the conflicting links with disease risk and the questionable influence on appetite regulation and weight control. Ultimately, while artificial sweeteners are perhaps not as scary as some might believe, I don’t recommend including them in your diet.

What has been your experience with artificial sweeteners? Do you avoid them? Include them? Share your thoughts in the comments!

In case you missed them, be sure to check out parts one and two of this series.

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Comments Join the Conversation

  1. says

    IMO, there is more than enough evidence of the harmfulness of artificial sweeteners, and I strictly avoid them. I made the decision to stop buying smoothies at Jamba Juice when I learned they routinely use Splenda for sweetening. When Crystal Geyser started putting out a “diet” version of their fruit sodas, I wrote to them pointing out the damage aspartame can do, including to babies in the womb. Maybe that was part of the reason they pulled the product.

    I know there’s a lot of prejudice and misinformation associated with xylitol, but I’ve concluded it’s just about ideal for sweetening purposes and has many benefits, including dental.

          • Jon says

            Excellent point. People fail to realize how natural things can be harmful and that not all synthetic ones are.

              • PJ (RightNOW) says

                Xylitol by default digests in the body with a limit to about 5-15 grams/day depending on the person. If you ingest more than that, it will initially give a loose bowel, however, your body will adapt and upregulate the enzymes to digest it. In research and practice, people simply add it to many things daily, accept a couple days of liquid bowel, and then the body has adapted and it’s not an issue anymore. I started with 1 tsp of xylitol and wow, it went right through me so to speak. Now I intentionally have about 6 Tbsp daily (with supplements) and there’s no issue.

    • Vale says

      What do you call “enough evidence”. If you don’t mind, I would like to read the research papers that substantiates the claim that is harmful by actual HUMAN tests since we are not rats nor ants etc. Do you have the info on where I can view these research papers?

        • Vale says

          What contribution did you just make with that comment? I really want to read about the research available and your comment helped how???

          • says

            There are many studies out there – andas many opinions. I don’t think this “unbiased truth” (which is in itself a rather difficult term) is so eternally truthful as it might appear to be. I am not convinced by thus review. For instance:

            “Aspartame (APM) is an artificial sweetener used since the 1980s, now present in >6,000 products, including over 500 pharmaceuticals. Since its discovery in 1965, and its first approval by the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) in 1981, the safety of APM, and in particular its carcinogenicity potential, has been controversial.
            The present commentary reviews the adequacy of the design and conduct of carcinogenicity bioassays on rodents submitted by G.D. Searle, in the 1970s, to the FDA for market approval. We also review how experimental and epidemiological data on the carcinogenic risks of APM, that became available in 2005 motivated the European Commission (EC) to call the European Food and Safety Authority (EFSA) for urgent re-examination of the available scientific documentation (including the Searle studies). The EC has further requested that, if the results of the evaluation should suggest carcinogenicity, major changes must be made to the current APM specific regulations.
            Taken together, the studies performed by G.D. Searle in the 1970s and other chronic bioassays do not provide adequate scientific support for APM safety. In contrast, recent results of life-span carcinogenicity bioassays on rats and mice published in peer-reviewed journals, and a prospective epidemiological study, provide consistent evidence of APM’s carcinogenic potential. On the basis of the evidence of the potential carcinogenic effects of APM herein reported, a re-evaluation of the current position of international regulatory agencies must be considered an urgent matter of public health. Am. J. Ind. Med. 57:383–397, 2014 – from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ajim.22296/full

        • Vale says

          What was your contribution with that comment? I really want to know about solid research available. And your comment helped how???

        • Dana says

          I already do. After learning that stevia causes heart palpitations for me and may have been complicit in causing me fat gain (that and “safe starches”), I’m back on sucralose because that does not cause me obvious problems. I’ve stuck my neck out. I’ve done my homework. Some people can’t tolerate it: I know a person who gets migraines from all artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols. But if you can, it does less damage than sugar. These questionable studies all noted how rats did when returning to sugar consumption. Why would any of us return to sugar consumption? We know the damage it does.

          That said, I don’t use tons of sucralose daily and I am interested in switching to Swerve, an erythritol and oligosaccharide blend. Because again, I never know til I try.

      • says

        Here’s a study done on humans:

        “Despite its widespread use, the artificial sweetener aspartame remains one of the most controversial food additives, due to mixed evidence on its neurobehavioral effects. Healthy adults who consumed a study-prepared high-aspartame diet (25 mg/kg body weight/day) for 8 days and a low-aspartame diet (10 mg/kg body weight/day) for 8 days, with a 2-week washout between the diets, were examined for within-subject differences in cognition, depression, mood, and headache. Measures included weight of foods consumed containing aspartame, mood and depression scales, and cognitive tests for working memory and spatial orientation. When consuming high-aspartame diets, participants had more irritable mood, exhibited more depression, and performed worse on spatial orientation tests. Aspartame consumption did not influence working memory. Given that the higher intake level tested here was well below the maximum acceptable daily intake level of 40–50 mg/kg body weight/day, careful consideration is warranted when consuming food products that may affect neurobehavioral health. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. – from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/nur.21595/full

      • Joyce says

        I used to get a brand of Stevia from Kroger’s that had nothing but Stevia and Inulin, which was fine, good taste & no adverse effects. Lately I have been unable to find this, only Stevia and Natural Flavors which is a bogus name for monosodium glutamate. The plain Stevia and Inulin packets seem to have gone extinct. Guess it didn’t fit the Agenda 21 (new world order) of decreasing worldwide population by 90%.

      • Joyce says

        Vale, there is a reason why most studies are done using mice, rats or other little critters with a much shorter life span than humans. True humans are not rats and mice, but problems from whatever is being studied shows up much quicker in those 4 legged’s than it does in humans.

        The proof is out there if you know where to look. For questions on MSG and aspartame, may I suggest a book written by retired neurosurgeon Russell L. Blaylock, titled “Excitotoxins:
        The Taste That Kills”. Proof of MSG causing mental retardation was known in the early 60′s. Doctor’s unable to get any action from the FDA, carried their evidence to Congress to get them to remove MSG from baby formula and baby foods. Congress passed a law that it had to be removed from both, and also said that since many people were allergic to MSG, it had to be listed as an ingredient in any food containing it. Before Blaylock, he must have studied every study ever done on MSG and aspartame (now renamed AminoSweet)
        because he tells about every one of them, and relates that no studies found them safe except those paid for by the industry making the produce. He then tells you how they skewed the facts. The sneakiest one was the one whose reported result was: at least as safe as the placebo. The sneaky part that belied the study was that the placebo was not a harmless sugar pill, but another substance that caused the same adverse effects as MSG. Another shortcoming in the studies that found MSG and aspartame to be safe was shortened studies. Blaylock said when the study lasted the proper length of time (think it was 13 weeks) that all the brains showed the damage whether mice, rats, cat, dog or chicken brain.
        Since those early 60′s, studies have gotten more specific about damage besides mental retardation. Excitotoxins are so named because they excite the neurons (cells) in our brains and central nervous systems to death. Blaylock tells us that both MSG and aspartame are neurotoxic. He also tells us that one of them kills off one type of cell and the other kills off
        another type of cell. It’s been a few years since I read his book, but one kills off the sodium transport cells and the other kills off calcium transport cells. Cells in the petri dish die 1 hour after one excitotoxin is added to the cells and the other one takes 6 hours to kill off the cells.
        That law about MSG is still on the books, but the food processors have found ways to avoid listing MSG by using a lot of bogus names to list it under.
        If you want a classic example of why we use short lived creatures in these studies, just type “France’s 2 year study on GMO produce” into your search window (this is the longest study to date) and look at those poor hideously deformed, morbidly obese creatures. Another study you can find on line is India’s study on GMO produce. They noticed changes in activity during the first week or two, but they also found litters occurred less often, with decreasing members of smaller birth weight – and finally no litters at all after only 3 generations of the critters in their study. They banned all Monsanto seeds from India.
        Three generations of creatures with a life span of 1 or 2 years, is going to show adverse effects much sooner than and be finished much quicker than a 3 generation study on humans.
        Another aspect to look at here is: How many scientists are likely to stay interested in, or live long enough to complete a study lasting possibly 200 or 300 years?
        PS – for all of you who aren’t up on bogus names of MSG, just type “names monosodium glutamate is hidden under” and be prepared to print them out, because it will take awhile to try to remember all of them.

        PS – you will also find some excellent videos on GMO produce. Look up the one that said GMO seeds are worse than we thought. Very interesting and will answer more of your questions.

    • Matt says

      Jennifer, “IMO”. Well unfortunately your opinion is contrary to published studies. It is unfortunate that you are the type of person the propagates misinformation and disinformation. That you would be presented with such studies right in front of your face and yet you willfully ignore the facts speaks to the foolishness of your positions on the matter. Further, your hubris is painfully evident that you believe your letter to Crystal Geyser was the catalyst for them pulling their drinks reeks of megalomania.

      Do the world a favor and just for once try and inform yourself of the actual facts of a particular subject matter before spouting off with uninformed drivel.

      • says

        Hi,

        I followed your advice and informed myself. Thanks for that. On the FDA website I found the following quote:

        “The problems with aspartame include not only the biochemical nature of this
        toxin but also it sheds light on the political nature of the players
        involved. The changes in regulatory policies and regulations resulting
        from corporate-government ties and the politicians closely associated with
        these ties.

        “What I can tell you, regarding toxicology, histology and biochemistry, is that aspartame is neurotoxic. Its components easily transcend the blood-brain barrier, interfering with normal nerve cell function. This
        affects the glutathione and calcium mechanisms in place, destroying nerve call integrity. The methanol then breaks down into formaldehyde-formic acid components, which denaturizes/mutates the DNA: a known scientific fact. The subsequent result from this interaction and from isolates of genetically modified amino acids, the methanol, is nerve cell necrosis and
        subsequent organ system degradation.

        The hypothalamus alone (the major controller for much of the endocrine system), is at especially high risk to these effects…thereby, affecting many other organ systems. I have seen first hand the effects on symptoms when individuals have abstained from ingesting the artificial sweetener, aspartame. Make no bones about it, aspartame is a major factor in many
        symptomologies due to its effects upon brain chemistry.” – It goes on, inform yourselves further here:

        http://www.fda.gov/ohrms/dockets/dailys/03/Apr03/042503/02P-0317_emc-000245.txt

        • Brian says

          Your reference here is to an email that is recorded on the fda site and is not information from the FDA or quoted by the FDA or even suggested by the FDA as legitimate.

          • Eric vd Worp says

            Beware believing in “blanket” organizations that “by default” have “your best interests” at heart. As the letter is written by a former FDA Agent, and it is fact that FDA tries bypassing proper safe studies to fast-track controversial or high-profit items through; note the absolute epidemic of diseases increasing since 90′s due to unnecessary and downright dangerous “legal drugs” use… With 5% of the population of the world, USA consumes more than 50% of artificial drugs produced….

      • says

        Hey, Matt:

        “Further, your hubris is painfully evident that you believe your letter to Crystal Geyser was the catalyst for them pulling their drinks reeks of megalomania.”

        I wrote:
        “Maybe that was part of the reason they pulled the product.”

        My comment was more of the “who knows” variety than “It was all down to me.” Who cares, I’m just glad they wised up.

        • marcus volke says

          Don’t even bother jenifer, the only megalomaniac here is Matt; who apparently likes to spend his spare time belittling random people on the internet with verbose pseudo-intellectual tirades.

      • Vernon says

        Matt
        I’m new to this blog. Your personal attack on Jennifer is offensive. Chris invited all readers to express themselves. Who appointed you chief critic? If you can’t contribute to this blog in a positive manner without attacking other readers, then please take your drivel elsewhere.

        • Jenifer says

          Thanks for the support Marcus and Vernon. Yeah, I was quite taken aback by Matt’s tone. I wonder if he has stock in Splenda and/or Nutrasweet. ;)

    • Susan says

      Most Xylitol is now made of none other than the infamous GMO corn. You might be able to find certified birch xylitol online.

      But I’m sticking with stevia. I avoid the most highly refined stevia brand, Truvia, which is made using a 40 step process. 40 steps, that’s not a typo. I saw the steps online. You can buy small organic stevia plants at whole foods in the summer and dehydrate the leaves 12 hours in the sun, or in a dehydrator. Crush the dried leaves and you have a totally natural, non-sugar, super sweet concentrate that will go a long way. I’m going to try freezing some of the dried crushed leaves or at least refrigerate.

    • nancy says

      while xylitol is ok for human consumption it is a deadly poison to dogs. Keep those treats and gum away from pets!!!!

      I get horrible headaches when ever exposed to aspartame. I’m diabetic so I dont eat sweets but a little table sugar has lower impact on my glucose than a piece of bread!

      • Eric vd Worp says

        That’s because starches are long-chain sugar molecules. ALL carb’s end up as sugar once dumped into our “fiery furnace” and burned away …

    • Rachel in Seattle area says

      Xylitol is great for toothpaste. Otherwise, it raises blood sugars and causes hella gastric distress.

  2. Wayne Rivali says

    Aspartame, a popular artificial sweetener, was manufactured and sold as an ant killer… until an employee at the plant discovered it was very sweet. Hence, Aspartame is now widely available for FDA approved human consumption.

  3. Wenchypoo says

    At our house, the BG meter is our guide–many sweeteners purported “not to raise blood sugar” actually DO according to the meter.

    Way back before I even had an inkling about nutrition (some 30 years ago), I had a weird experience with aspartame. It was a new sweetener in sodas (Nutrasweet), so I tried one…and promptly got numbness in my right jaw and lower lip. My M-I-L said to stop drinking it, and I did. I never used aspartame again. I now know it’s a neurotoxin.

    Erythritol gets over-hyped, in my opinion–it claims to “not raise BG levels”, yet in my husband, IT DID by some 20 points. The only sweetener that we use is stevia glycerite–it moved Hubby 1 point in 2 hours.

    This is why we let the meter be our guide.

    • JH says

      And it didn’t and doesn’t in my Type 2 diabetic husband. Nor do sucralose, stevia, maltitol or any of the dubious sweeteners in diet coke.

      These results echo precisely what has been said about conflicting information. With reference to our personal experience we will continue to use these things in moderation rather than ban them entirely on the strength of such inconclusive evidence.

      • Cat says

        +1 I thought that at this point we’d all be very aware that people have a variety of reactions to any given food or ingredient. At least in this type of community, where we tend to lots of self-experimentation. I think studies will tend to capture the majority response, but of course, that makes no difference to someone who is not in the majority.

  4. pm says

    It’s hard to imagine that excito toxins like Aspartic Acid/Aspartate (&glutamate) as well as Phenylalanie, Methanol and Diketopiperazine (DKP) — aka Aspartame — is as safe as your research suggests. Dr. Mercola, for example, states that there exists research to show the exact contrary of your article conclusions. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/11/06/aspartame-most-dangerous-substance-added-to-food.aspx

    I always choose to err on the side of caution, so I won’t use these sweeteners or recommend others do as well.

      • says

        Interesting term, anti-vaxxer. Here’s a paragraph from a peer-reviewed science article:

        “There are a host of environmental factors that trigger autoimmune disorders, including chemical toxicants, heavy metals, viruses, bacteria, emotional stress, and drugs. For example, adjuvants, such as aluminum hydroxide used in vaccines and medical silicones used in breast implants, can cause an autoimmune disorder known as Shoenfeld’s syndrome [13]. A recent study published in the journal Apoptosis demonstrates that hepatitis B vaccine causes liver cell destruction in Hepa1-6 cells. This cell death is attributed to the use of the adjuvant aluminum hydroxide, increasingly identified as a contributing cause of autoimmune disease in immunized patients [14]. — from:

        Autoimmune Diseases Volume 2014 (2014), Article ID 152428, 12 pages – find full text here: http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ad/2014/152428/abs/

          • Mildred Lage says

            Hmmm…killer disease are better? Maybe you are not old enough to remember these diseases, but more people/children sicken and die from the illnesses versus the vaccines. One of my childhood friends died from measles. Another was crippled by polio.

      • Hélène says

        anti-vaxx is a good stance to have. go, dr. mercola.
        interesting that you assume ANYone, let alone EVERYone, is pro-vaccine.

  5. Anna says

    I am grateful that Chris Kresser had culled the existing if somewhat meager evidence and provided a solid summary of the findings. His own conclusion is that there is no real proof that artificial sweeteners are either harmful or beneficial, but that it is best to err on the side of caution. That for me is the reason to abstain, rather than any anecdotal bias or comparison with ants.

    • says

      I agree! I teach my students to stay away from artificial anything…colors, flavors, sugars, etc. I am lucky to not have diabetes so if I want something sweet I use honey or maple syrup. I trust the devil I know over the devil I don’t know. I don’t need loads of scientific evidence to tell me not to trust something artificial. It’s not science but it works for me and my family.
      I hope that this article helped those that include artificial sweeteners in their diet.

  6. Stefani says

    I have always hated the taste of diet drinks, so I never had much experience with artificial sweeteners… until I used a sugar-free fiber supplement years ago. Within 2 days of taking it, I developed a low-grade headache that medicine couldn’t budge. The ONLY thing that had changed in my diet was the sugar-free (aspartame) fiber supplement. I switched back to my normal fiber (with regular sugar) and within 2 days the headache was gone, never to return. I have in the past used protein powders with Ace-K with no overt physical manifestations, but for years now, I have avoided all artificial sweeteners (and fiber supplement and protein powders). Better safe than sorry–sticking with whole foods and natural sweeteners as much as possible now. :)

  7. says

    In 1983 or thereabouts, I ate something sweet and my joints began aching (I was a young teenager, athletic and thin, with few allergies and not very food-conscious). I got a pounding headache, felt as if I had to burp and couldn’t, and felt irritable and stiff-jointed for a couple of hours. I learned that the treat had contained a new sweetener, NutraSweet, which had a good reputation, and no one had ever heard any complaints about it. Over the next two years, I found that every time I ate something and then felt that way, it turned out to contain either the new sweetener or a large amount of MSG. That was how I became conscious of aspartame and MSG as additives. I know that studies have shown aspartame to be safe, but I don’t buy it for a second. I think there is something wrong with the research. My experience was pronounced and consistent and cannot possibly have been suggestion or expectation based. It is from that experience that I learned to be suspicious of artificial sweeteners in general.

  8. rs711 says

    “Unbiased Truth” OK OK I believe you – jeez! :p

    In all seriousness, I liked your to-the-point presentation and common sense conclusions; because although findings are so far negative they’re far from being proven as safe which is the logical standard to adopt when introducing evolutionarily novel food items in ones diet. Good stuff!

  9. says

    I think this is a really great article that calms the hype about many myths that have been blown up by the media. On the other hand, I don’t feel like it highlights the fact that many sweeteners like aspartame has had over 100 side effects linked to it. I think it’s warranted to be very cautious about artificial sweeteners since they are extremely processed. That’s why I compiled a complete list of artificial sweeteners and whether they should be avoided or are safe. http://www.liveto110.com/complete-list-of-artificial-sweeteners/

    thanks for letting us know, Chris, that there is a new approved artificial sweetener to be avoided! i’ll have to add this to my list!

    • Hélène says

      amazon has NOW stevia glycerite. the best ive found. i can not tolerate 99% of the stevia out there. NuNaturals is ok also but NOW is better. the only other one i’d use is SweetLeaf Stevia Plus…white powder. I prefer the glycerite now tho.

  10. Alonso H says

    Is worth mentioning their impact on the digestive system; some of them have been known for their purgative effects, something that people with issues like IBS should avoid.

  11. says

    In my personal experience, after having kicked artificial sweeteners nearly 6 years ago, I realized that I was having monthly breast tenderness nearly the entire month. I also was stagnant at my weight and my thyroid levels fluctuated several times over the course of a year.

    Since I stopped consuming them in anything, (in my coffee, diet sodas or gum containing aspartame or sucralose), I have managed to resolve all of those things.

  12. Cathy Pemberton says

    A few years ago my father (now deceased) moved into a Veteran’s Home. Soon after arrival, he developed unexplained diarrhea, which the resident physician tried diligently to control using typical pharmaceutical means. I lived several states away, and did not realize my dad was having this trouble, until my mom mentioned it in a phone call, letting me know dad had lost almost 30 pounds—which he didn’t need to lose. I immediately asked if he was being fed artificial sweeteners, and had them check all his food sources. Long story short–yes, tons. They were in everything, the fruit at breakfast, the pie at lunch, the applesauce and the ice cream and the juice, etc., etc. Within one week of dumping the artificial sweeteners, his diarrhea resolved. However, since everything he ate was still sweet, just with regular sugar, he developed the opposite trouble—which is another story. Bottom line: I don’t know exactly which artificial sweeteners he was consuming, or exactly why they contributed to his intestinal issues, I just know they did, and I will be forever frustrated that medical folks don’t consider FOOD when they are trying to diagnose a problem—especially a gut-related problem.

    • Maria says

      It is a great failure of medical curriculum that only calls for 1 hour of education on nutrition unless you’re in naturopathy.

    • says

      Dr. Mercola on xylitol:
      ” Of the various sugar alcohols, xylitol is one of the best. When it is pure, the potential side effects are minimal, and it actually comes with some benefits such as fighting tooth decay. All in all, I would say that xylitol is reasonably safe, and potentially even a mildly beneficial sweetener.

      As an aside, xylitol is toxic to dogs and some other pets, so be sure to keep it out of reach of your family pets.”

      From my own research, I think the benefits are underestimated. Here’s an excerpt from a blog post I wrote:

      http://mizar5.com/xylitolsalvation.html

      “Although xylitol tastes and looks exactly like sugar, that is where the similarities end. Xylitol is really sugar’s mirror image. While sugar wreaks havoc on the body, xylitol heals and repairs. It also builds immunity, protects against chronic degenerative disease, and has anti-aging benefits. Xylitol is considered a five-carbon sugar, which means it is an antimicrobial, preventing the growth of bacteria. While sugar is acid-forming, xylitol is alkaline enhancing. All other forms of sugar, including sorbitol, another popular alternative sweetener, are six-carbon sugars, which feed dangerous bacteria and fungi.”

      And here’s a summary of benefits from another article on xylitol:
      http://www.iprogressivemed.com/misc/xylitol_a_sweet_alternative.pdf
      Summary of Benefits
      Xylitol is a sweet-tasting sugar substitute that has been approved for use in more than 35 countries. Consumption of xylitol is associated with a significant reduction in tooth decay, resulting in fewer cavities and resolution of periodontal disease. Xylitol has been shown to contribute to increased bone density, weight loss, stabilization of blood sugar and lowering of insulin levels. Additional benefits include:

      • Increases energy by enhancing ATP production
      • Increases utilization of fat
      • Replenishes glycogen
      • Anabolic — keeps biosynthetic pathways open
      • Anticatabolic —helps maintain lean muscle mass
      • Antioxidant —generates NADPH, keeping glutathione in an active state
      • Increases endurance
      • Reduces free radical and oxidative damage

      The dental benefits are certainly one of the main reasons to consume xylitol rather than refined sugar. We can even brush with it! An in-depth exploration of this can be read at this site dedicated to healing teeth naturally:
      http://www.healingteethnaturally.com/rinsing-mouth-brushing-teeth-with-xylitol-sugar.html

      Research has also indicated it helps prevent aging of the skin–another example of xylitol as the “mirror image” of refined sugar, which has been shown to promote aging of the skin, through the process known as glycosylation.
      http://www.smartskincare.com/nutrition/xylitol-skin-collagen.html

      • liz says

        xylitol gives me terrible cramps/diarrhea – even if just chewing the gum – do not think it is benign for everyone

        • DebbieC says

          I first tried a couple pieces of chocolate at work a few years ago that contained xylitol ~ after the person offering them said she thought it was the best sweetener around. As a result I lost an entire afternoon of work as I had such severe intestinal distress I couldn’t leave the ladies room longer than 10 minutes. For a while I seriously wondered if I’d even be able to leave the office to go home that night!

          That, and the fact that it’s *extremely* toxic to dogs (and I have a dog who eats anything not nailed down) keeps xylitol out of my house. As it is I accidentally bought something with xylitol once and ended up at the vet emergency clinic at 1 AM after I found my dog rummaging in the garbage, and had her stomach pumped. Vet confirmed only small amounts can be fatal.

          I admit I do miss cyclamates. They are still legal in just about every country in the world except the US, and I’ve occasionally bought them in Canada, but when I was in Canada last summer I couldn’t find them anywhere!

          I’ve lost 100 pounds while consuming some AS here and there, but alas I’ve been stalled for 5 years now with still a lot left to lose. :(

  13. Sandy says

    Aspartame is toxic, and people vary in their ability to process it…very similar to MSG sensitivity. In my early 20′s after college when I was at my first desk job and starting to put on a few pounds, I tried diet coke but it immediately gave me severe headaches. It didn’t take a whole week to narrow it down to the aspartame-sweetened beverage. I bought some sugarless gum around the holidays for the Christmas stockings–I assumed that it had sorbitol or xylitol in it. When I noticed a return of mild headaches after chewing the gum, I checked the ingredient list and sure enough it contained aspartame. When I stopped chewing the gum, the headaches went away again. I am very sensitive to MSG as well. Splenda and stevia don’t seem to bother me, so if I get incidental exposure when eating at other homes, I don’t worry about it. However, I avoid them when I have a choice. I avoid natural sugars most of the time too, but if I’m treating myself to something sweet, I go for the real thing.

  14. Jamie says

    When I was hitting the 4 hour body hard I would have a big cheat day once a week and then lose weight the rest of the week. It worked great, but if I consumed artificial sweeteners it slowed my weight loss. I did different experiments eating the same thing everyday and only adding diet coke. I don’t think it causes weight gain, but definitely prevented loss for me. Best theory I ever heard was that it tricks the brain into thinking its sugar and causes a sugar hormone response.

      • Jamie says

        I do. But have never run an experiment using it. I really don’t care for the taste and don’t tend to consume it very often. Mostly aspartame and xylitol. Diet soda, sugar free pudding, and sugar free jello were the worst for me. All aspartame. Vitamin Water Zero and 0 cal Sobe were not as bad for weight loss but aggravated my intestines for me. I think Xylitol is a fodmap that really bothers me.

  15. Katthy says

    I use hazelnut stevia in my one cup of organic coffee with cream each morning. I have used a small amount of stevia every day ever since it came out. I gave up my one diet Sprite a day, 2 years ago. Cancer runs in my family so I am always concerned about that! I have never had any adverse effects (that I am aware of), but am now cautious about Stevia. I do not want to switch to sugar, but have been reading Sweet Poison and am curious about dextrose, which does not contain fructose, only glucose.

  16. Jas says

    For me, personally, I notice that the consumption of artificial sweeteners gives me a headache/migraine. The more I drink the worse the headache. This article has amazing timing. After another bout of headaches I’m removing these products from my diet for good.

  17. Gina says

    Thanks for the article Chris! I was literally talking with my boyfriend about this just yesterday. He was saying that drinking an artificial sweetener (say dissolved in a soda) has a different mechanism than consuming it in sold form. Have you seen any evidence of this?

  18. Sam Elowitch says

    I think we need a new term for sugar alternatives than “artificial sweeteners” because xylitol, stevia, etc. can arguably be considered “natural” and because some of the sugar alternatives likely have different effects on the body than others.

    • Hélène says

      I call those sugar alcohols. Most are terrible tho. The only ones i’d ever consider are erythritol and maybe xylitol.
      I only use them for my nongrain baking and green smoothies as i pack in the greens, like 3c for one shake and dont want to waste my fruit allowance on sweetening it. It doesnt work anyway. Still needs to be sweetened to get the smoothie down. so i just use stevia (the only true “sugar alternative” IMO) and maybe erythritol with it and EAT my fruit, thus consciously enjoying it. i am everything-free at this point lol (and its having no effect STILL sigh) So bringing some joy to my eating is very needed!

  19. Nancy Nelson says

    One area of research not showing up is the artificial sweetener’e affect on other diseases. I have rheumatoid arthritis. While I am not a soda drinker to begin with, on the occasions I did drink one I began to drink diet, just to keep calories down. Within an hour I would have a severe arthritis attack. I tried this several times and the results were the same. Regular soda does not have that affect; consequently I surmised it was the artificial sweetener that caused the problem.

  20. Cindy K. says

    One Diet Coke can lay me out with a monster headache for days. The first time I tried one, I had been working in the yard at my parents house and drank half a can. Within 15 minutes, I felt like a red hot poker was being shoved into my left eye. If I end up with a migraine these days, it’s usually because i mistakenly ate something with aspartame or MSG. I don’t care what the studies show… the stuff is poision to me.

  21. Peter marin says

    Unlike most of your readers’ comments, I am (again) left with a disappointment regarding your vague mishmash of inconclusive hand-wringing.

  22. Krista says

    Well, there you have it, folks. I’m far more inclined to go with the anecdotal evidence, in this case. Read the other responses and its quite obvious that chemical sweeteners are bad news and should be avoided. I am going to do my own bio hack on blood glucose with stevia and xylitol…..good idea!

  23. PureChi says

    I used to drink diet sodas religiously to try and lose weight. I drink lots of water, too, but something about the carbonation, I guess, just gives that extra burst. Anyway after years of drinking them and years of medical issues, I went to see a holistic doctor. She told me to eliminate the artificial sweeteners and if I wanted soda, drink the ‘real stuff’. I was so afraid it would make me gain weight after having drank the diet soda for so long. Guess what? I didn’t see ANY evidence whatsoever. Very happy to use real sugar again and eliminate the artificial stuff, who needs it anyway? Why not stick with something ‘natural’?

  24. Jacee says

    If you think artificial sweeteners are bad for you, try reading the research on actual sugar/sucrose, which can be the cause or exacerbate every known human disease. It’s stickiness isn’t just noticeable when you spill it on the floor or other places; you should have a look at your arteries and see how it sticks things together that should flow freely. A “little” of any artificial sweetener that doesn’t give you a headache, joint pain, or diarrhea is better than sticky arteries and high blood glucose.

  25. Terry says

    I’ve taken what I think is the prudent Paleo approach to sweeteners and largely try to avoid them all, artificial OR natural. Sure, our ancestors probably loaded up on honey when they found it, but it was most likely an infrequent occurrence and not without stinging repercussions. There is so much sugar, HFCS, and fructose added to almost every imaginable food today, even where you wouldn’t expect it, so purposely adding any to my diet seems unwise.

  26. Nate says

    Artificial sweeteners have no upside and unquantified downside risk. Logic dictates to avoid consuming them.

    I like bacon better than diet soda pop anyway :-)

  27. Sara r. says

    My husband cut out diet drinks and quickly lost 15 pounds and his migraines went away almost completely. We will never go back to drinking them. I prefer to drink things with actual nutrients.

    • says

      You say that as if “anecdotes” were a bad thing? :) Anyway, I have pasted a number of quotes from recent peer-reviewed science articles as replies to various other comments above, have a look. Of course, they are just anecdotes from a laboratory setting, where the scientists were influenced by their socio-cultural setting, but still….

    • Hélène says

      published research is just approved, “supervised” anedoctal evidence.
      also–that has made it past the PC committee of the journal; much research never even gets published, let alone funded and therefore DONE. all becuz it doesnt go with an industry or two’s agenda.
      how MY body reacts is the very most important thing. caveat emptor.

  28. Brittany says

    I do avoid artificial sweetness at all cost. Sure the research may show they aren’t particularly harmful, but they way I see it they aren’t helping my diet either. They are typically found in food that do not add much if any nutritional value to my diet!
    Chris, have you seen any research linking artificial sweeteners and allergies such as skin and seasonal? I know of 3 clients who have cleared up skin and seasonal allergies by eliminating artificial sweeteners and I have had no luck finding scientific literature on this! As always, thank you for your wonderful work!

  29. Jeff says

    Some time this spring I decided to just skip almost all sweeteners. Since I prepare most of my meals from scratch this isn’t hard–if I want a sweet treat I can always add banana or mango or something naturally sweet.

    Along the way I learned how to taste food again, and came to the realization that sugar was masking the true flavor of most foods. I’ve learned to enjoy the taste of food all over again. My chocolate is 85% pure and I’ve never had anything but black coffee as well.

    I found that the more sweets I eat, the more I crave. The less I eat, the less I crave. It didn’t take long (weeks) to eliminate the cravings. So I have no use for artificial sweeteners at all.

    Clearly though everyone is different, and it could be some people just decide they can’t live without sweeteners or they simply haven’t tried. It seems the artificial sweeteners are marketed to this group.

  30. Dave K says

    Over the years I’ve found that if I drink too many diet sodas I end up binge eating later in the day, usually on simple carbs.

  31. Kira says

    Recently sucralose (Splenda) has been detected in the river downstream from my city. Most of what we take in is excreted and doesn’t seem to break down in the environment. Something else to consider…

  32. Maria says

    ” women who consume more artificially sweetened drinks also tend to smoke more, have higher BMI, and lower socioeconomic status.”

    Wow, how much more data is really needed to convince people that these artificial sweeteners are not healthy?

    • says

      I’m a woman – non smoker, non drug user, almost non alcohol user (rare cocktail at a party). I’m educated, upper middle class, worked all my life and am now retired and writing. And I love my splenda. Most of my peers have the same status. I don’t remember being part of any poll either. hmmm

      • Hélène says

        more likely that a low socioeconomic person has a higher BMI and smokes, besides uses artifical sweeteners.
        thats the only point.
        of course educated ppl use them too. alot of MDs smoke. and alot of rich ladies are quite round.
        its a simple correlation. the causation lies in the fact when you quit the crap, health improves. across all classes.

    • says

      Just my opinion, but I think the key here is moderation. If you’re drinking diet soda all day, that’s probably not so good. Your body does need water and water sans chemicals is best. But I don’t believe it means you can’t have a glass of diet soda amongst all the glasses of water.

      • NoBroScience says

        Amen!
        How about anecdotes do not equal double blind, very long term studies, rampant placebo effect, and thinking that honey (combo of glucose, fructose, sucrose) is any different metabolically than refined sugar (sucrose).

  33. says

    What about the fact that aspartame is 10% methanol in a free form (not bound to pectin) that can cross the blood brain barrier?

    • Michelle R says

      Yes, there is a brand called Pur that uses Xylitol for sweetener. I happen to be chewing some at the moment.

      • NoBroScience says

        Just beware of the laxative effect of sugar alcohols such as xylitol and sorbitol. This effect is dose dependent and differs from person to person. People here are forgetting genetic variation and why/how some items effect one person differently from another.

        Also, as to all the rodent studies mentioned in this thread, we know that rodent results do not always translate to identical human results. Pigs make a better human analog that do rodents, but they are more expensive to purchase and house, some people make footballs out of them, etc.

  34. Lisa says

    Many years ago I tried to use Splenda in my morning coffee every time I went on a “low carb” diet (long before I learned about ancestral ways of eating). I would get terrible migraines every day for about 3 days, and I am not someone that gets migraines very often. I assumed it was by body adjusting to the low carb diet, going through withdrawls. Long story short, it was the Splenda, and I have steered clear of it ever since.

  35. Dana says

    I don’t dismiss non-nutritive sweeteners out of hand. I do keep aspartame consumption to a minimum. Not because of any of the weird things natural-health bloggers say about it but I’m wondering what excess phenylalanine consumption does in someone with one PKU gene or when you overwhelm your breakdown enzyme production, even temporarily. It’s a neurologically active amino acid no matter what your genetic template. I know my head will stop bothering me if I (apparently) overdose on the stuff.

    But every NNS has its own issues and its own story to tell. We *cannot* paint every one with the same brush. Not when we *know* sugar kills. You know, Ebola is “natural” too. Houses are artificial, but they protect us from dying of exposure, even when in bad shape. Something to consider, anyway.

    • Dana says

      Start bothering me. My head *starts* bothering me on too much aspartame. Sorry, no edit available.

  36. Neuroscientist says

    I am a retired neuroscientist. I like sweetener in my coffee and yogurt, so I’ve read everything I can find about the safety of the only 3 that taste good to me: sugar, aspartame and sucralose. It seems that all of them can be hazardous if you consume a lot of them, but all are quite harmless at very low doses. The obvious solution: Use just a little of each. So in my 15-oz. mug of coffee each morning, I use one blue packet, one yellow packet, and one teaspoon of the white stuff (cane sugar). This seems like the most reasonable approach, given the confusing and inconclusive current state of the science. And it tastes fine.

  37. Mare says

    Hi all,
    I’d worried for many years about my overweight husband esp after he became a type 2 diabetic. Then last year I finally convinced him to (mostly) give up his addiction to Equal (aspartame) which he’d used in his thermos of coffee every single morning AND it’s in the diet pop he drinks (sadly he won’t give up the diet pop which he mixes with his rum-sigh). He’s slowly been losing some weight though doing nothing else different ever since I got him last year to switch over to a natural sugar substitute called ‘Just Like Sugar’…
    http://www.justlikesugar.com/

  38. cruiser says

    Why can’t people , especially Americans learn to curb their depraved taste for sweet tasting foods —–. Problem solved!
    In any case the prime problem appears to be too much food of the wrong kind. Are people digging their graves with their knives and forks, also If it’s packaged beware.

  39. Dr. Shabnam Das Kar says

    Chris.What about the effect of different artificial sweeteners on blood sugar & insulin levels? What is your opinion on that ?
    And also the excitotoxicity of aspartame?

  40. Beatrix Willius says

    I fondly remember a cold where I mistakenly bought sugar-free cough-drops. One of these – with Xylitol – managed to give me so much gas that I thought I would explode. I never liked sugar-free before because of the odd taste and since then I take even more care than before. If sweet then sugar.

    • Jenifer says

      A couple of quotes from Wikipedia on the GI issues with xylitol:

      “In one study of 13 children, four experienced diarrhea when consuming over 65 grams per day.[35] Studies have reported adaptation occurs after several weeks of consumption.[35]”

      “As with other sugar alcohols, with the exception of erythritol, consumption in excess of one’s laxation threshold (the amount of sweetener that can be consumed before abdominal discomfort sets in) can result in temporary gastrointestinal side effects, such as bloating, flatulence, and diarrhea. Adaptation, an increase of the laxation threshold, occurs with regular intake. Xylitol has a lower laxation threshold than some sugar alcohols, but is more easily tolerated than others such as mannitol and sorbitol.”

      And Dr. Ellie at drecoaching.com points out that it’s a prebiotic:

      “Here is a review of one recent study at the National Institute of Health:
      …a beneficial shift in the metabolic patterns of the colon microbes was measured with the tested products. These in vitro studies provide evidence to the prebiotic characteristics… and beneficial properties of xylitol were demonstrated in the colon model.(http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17995737)

      The only problem with xylitol is when you consume too much too quickly. Then xylitol draws water into the intestine which can cause a temporary digestive inconvenience! This is why large amounts of xylitol should not be eaten all at once until your digestion is conditioned and healthy.”

  41. Victor says

    I have given up on all sweeteners, including artificial sweeteners. In the pursuit of eating a whole foods diet that is as natural as possible, I don’t see any artificial sweeteners as fitting in, and I do’t care to review any research findings pro or against any of them. I’ve been off all sweeteners for probably 9 months now and I honestly don’t miss them.

    • Greg says

      Another anecdote Matt! One of the side effects that has been suggested for aspartame (Nutra Sweet) is vertigo. Sure enough, this happened to me. Several years ago I started taking a fibre supplement, Metamucil, which contained aspartame. Soon after, I started getting vertigo. The first attack was triggered by a visit to a physiotherapist. He bent my head back and down into a vertical position while manipulating my back, and it suddenly hit me. Then the vertigo kept recurring whenever I tilted my head in the wrong position. I eventually found the possible link with aspartame on the web and switched to another version of Metamucil which has sucrose instead of aspartame, and my vertigo has now completely disappeared.

  42. Birgit says

    Unfortunately all sugar alcohols raise my blood sugar substantially. They may be “natural” compared to sucralose but they are still fairly highly processed.
    The only sweetener I currently use is stevia leaf (which I don’t like too much) and “Just like sugar” which is chicoree based.

  43. Lindsay says

    I avoid artificial sweeteners completely. I use stevia sparingly, and have recently become suspicious of even that, as it seems to be causing me reactive hypoglycemic episodes.

    However, my recent Genova Diagnostics NutrEval Plasma Amino Acids profile results showed very elevated levels of aspartic acid (0.99, reference range: .20-.50). Does anyone know what this might be caused by? My doctor was very surprised that I do not drink diet sodas.

  44. Linda says

    Just listen to your instincts. artificial sweetners are bad! They do not grow, swim in the sea or graze. if youcrave sweet eat a piece of fruit. if that’s not sweet enough the have a small piece of high calorie but nutrient rich home made chocolate. sweetened with crushed dates or currents ect. The answer is to break the sweet/ craving cycle by not denying your self or with fake food. Once you do this even your cravings for healthy sweets will decline. i did it and have maintained it fir many years

  45. Wendy says

    I am disgusted by the attitudes and attacks towards Chris, and other people on this blog that share interests, concerns, questions, and thoughts. No one is saying “I AM TRUTH AND YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO MEEEEEE.” and we’re all in this together.
    Disagree with Mr. Kresser? Go for it, but don’t sit behind your computer and spout out attacks on everything and everyone involved. People are trying to take hold on their lives. Health is everyone’s individual journey, and there is so much conflicting information out there, it’s very difficult for anyone to have a clue as to what to believe. These articles are provided as a service to those who want to read them. Are you people who are so boldly disagreeing and trying to disprove everything on all of these blogs making this much of a stink to corporate sponsored journalists and researchers? are you calling up the researchers who come out with bogus results and ripping their heads off? do you make everyone who asks questions feel like an idiot?

    if so, sorry your life is such a bummer.
    but please, keep your nasty rants to yourself and the miserable people around you. Someone is working to no end to provide incredible information and research for those of us who want to hear it. we all have our own ability to challenge and criticize if we want to. but please, stop attacking the other people who want nothing more but to feel good and understand why.

    Chris Kresser, I appreciate what you do.
    Everyone else, keep asking questions. Keep wanting more.

  46. Gregor H says

    As a Compulsive eater I’ve reduced my intake of artificial sweetners just because of psychological reasons.

    I found that I craved sucrose ladened foods the more diet foods I consumed. If this because of lower nutrition density (likley) or just ’cause I’m a compulsive eater nut job who has a sugar addiction is not relevant to me personally.

    I simply do better eating less sweet tasting foods.

    Note: down 96 pounds since October 22nd 2013 on a Paleo meal plan.

  47. kyle says

    I eat sweetener (stevia) because I assume it has little effect on insulin. This article ignores this as a reason for using artificial sweeteners. Low carb dieters will use stevia before honey or maple syrup.

  48. Jackie says

    Our bodies are natural, whole beings. Thus, we should consume natural, whole foods. Everything in moderation. If one wants to be healthy, eat clean. Eating clean means veggies, fruits, meats, whole grains. Nothing processed. No need to even worry about what sweetener to use if eating clean. Fruits will combat that sweet tooth! If I do need a sweetener, ex. in a cup of coffee, I use Agave Nectar, a natural sweetener which is low glycemic.

  49. says

    My personal experience with drinking artificially sweetened beverages, and getting multiple migraines a week is why I stay away from artificial sweeteners.

    When I was working my way through my first two years of medical school I drank a lot of beverages with artificial sweeteners in them. Mentally I told myself, if I couldn’t work out as frequently, maybe I could at least cut out the calories!!

    This seemed to keep me firmly fixed in front of my medical textbook, however I started to experience multiple migraines a week. This would ruin the studying time because I required rest in a dark room to get rid of the ridiculously bad headache. Instead of suffering from these, I decided to look at what I was eating and drinking. I found myself drinking a lot of Sugar-free Red Bull and Rockstar Lemonade. These two beverages both are riddled with various different artificial sweeteners and other stimulants. Once I removed these two beverages from my diet, I have had only one migraine in the past 3 years.

    I know this could be from the other ingredients in each of these beverages, however I am not taking any chances!!

    Since moving away from artificially sweetened beverages I tend to drink unsweetened green tea!!

    Check out my blog RonTorranceDo.wordpress.com about the benefits of green tea.

    • NoBroScience says

      “I found myself drinking a lot of Sugar-free Red Bull and Rockstar Lemonade. These two beverages both are riddled with various different artificial sweeteners and other stimulants. Once I removed these two beverages from my diet, I have had only one migraine in the past 3 years. ”

      Pressor effects of the caffeine?

      • says

        I am still consuming an equivocal amount of caffeine through my consumption of green tea and espresso. I have taken all artifical sweeteners out of my diet as well as almost all added sugars out of my diet. My other independent variables have been fairly consistent.

  50. Becca_h11 says

    Personally, I respond extremely poorly to artificial sweeteners. I get migraines, stomach pains, etc. with even extremely small doses of that stuff. That being said, I think it is much safer to just avoid them…it is pretty easy to avoid them.

  51. Lin_momof5 says

    I found this article disappointing. As the many comments have shown, there is a wealth of anecdotal evidence, not to mention numerous peer-reviewed studies showing there ARE negative side-effects from aspartame in particular. I think Dr. Mercola addresses these issues in a far more comprehensive manner on his website. I enjoy Chris’s articles, but he really failed to demonstrate the true nature of the debate over the safety of artificial sweeteners in this case.

  52. Janet says

    When I drink diet coke — which has aspartame — I get an empty hollow feeling and need to eat something, and it usually isn’t a real healthy something. Also stevia gives me diarrhea. I think using sugar substitutes is a form of denial — and that denial is that we cannot be happy without our daily dose of added sugar — real or fake. We are looking for all sorts of ways to avoid facing the reality that added sugar is not a healthy way of seeking eating pleasure.. We need to wean ourselves from it and retrain ourselves to eat it as an occasional special treat not as every day fare.

  53. alma says

    I don’t think a study sponsored by the American Beverage Association is even worth mention, except to dismiss it as probably corrupt. I think most artificial sweeteners taste bad, so I avoid them. Generally agree with the conclusion that one should avoid until further evidence is produced, although I do think there are far better nutritional studies we could be spending our money on than whether artificial sweeteners are good or bad.

  54. Bet says

    What isn’t being mentioned here is how artificial sweeteners change our sense of taste. Even Stevia, in it’s processed form is 300+ times sweeter than sugar. If you are constantly bombing your taste buds with these sweeteners, your body will expect that level of sweetness in all of your food.

    You don’t need artificial sweeteners.

  55. Michele says

    When I started low-carb/high fat in January my triglycerides were 199. I quit drinking the 3-4 daily regular colas and switched to Sweet Leaf Sweet Drops stevia (berry) and use 5 drops in a glass of water (about 5 a day). In March my triglycerides were 80 and I was 10 pounds lighter although I was not overweight to begin with. Low carb probably had a lot to do with it although I rarely ate sweets or grains before. I don’t see any adverse effects with the Sweet Drops.

  56. Michele says

    Chris–You should put a date on your articles. The only way I can tell when you wrote this is looking at the dates in the comments.

  57. Dina says

    Ok I have read all the comments above – now I have a question: I never drink diet soda’s but I do drink about 5 cups of coffee both regular and decaf a day. I put 1 packet of “sweet n low” in each cup of coffee. Am I going to get cancer? Please respond, as now I’m scared. (been doing this for years and years)

  58. tuscany says

    To those of you getting snarky with one another, how does that help any of us? We all want to find the healthiest way to eat and it does no good to use sarcasm against one another.

  59. Robin says

    In 1987, I lost 130 pounds–more than I currently weigh. I have maintained that weight loss, and using artificial sweeteners, played a big part in my weight loss, as they do in my maintenance. I did delete Asparatame, from my diet, because I do believe it is a migraine trigger, for me. I decided, long ago, that obesity was the greatest threat that I faced, and I was, and am thankful, that I have had these, in my arsenal, to battle obesity. I am happy to say, I also enjoy radiant health, with “numbers” that my physicians say, they envy. Maybe they are crutches, and I honestly don’t care…nor do I care who chooses to use them, or not. It’s a personal decision–but I am sick to death of obese people who make snarky remarks to me, about my low carb lifestyle, and use of sweeteners, being negative to my health.

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