There is a lot of fear mongering when it comes to artificial sweeteners.
The option of using a zero calorie sweetener is yours as well as the choice of which one. The most common ones are aspartame, sucralose and stevia.
ARE THEY REALLY ZERO CALORIE?
Yes they are but the one you are using may not be.
For example pure sucralose is zero calorie but if you’re buying Splenda which is sweetened with sucralose, it also contains maltodextrin which has calories. Maltodextrin is added in order to add volume to the packet of sweetener so it resembles a similar amount of sugar.
In reality only a few milligrams of sucralose is required for the same amount of sweetness derived from sugar.
So look at the ingredients label because even if it says zero calorie (due to how labels are permitted to be printed) it may not be.
Artificial sweeteners have always been painted as bad. Here are some facts presented to you so you can make up your own mind.
They are a few hundred times sweeter than sugar so you need them in minuscule amounts as compared to sugar.
HOW MUCH IS SAFE?
The FDA limit on how much artificial sweetener is safe to consume in a day is almost 10 times less than the actual safe limit of these sweeteners according to research.
For example the amount of sucralose in 28 packs of Splenda is considered safe according to the FDA.
If you’re consuming anywhere close to this much sucralose then there are other concerns you need to address first.
LINKS TO CANCER?
Several research papers have shown no links to cancer in the amounts recommended by the FDA.
However aspartame is not safe to be used in individuals suffering from phenylketonuria (PKU)
They don’t trick your body into wanting to consume calories as is often rumoured. This could be more a psychological response of people “rewarding” themselves the calories they’ve saved by using artificial sweeteners.
They don’t spike insulin and hence can be used by diabetics.
For someone with a sweet tooth trying to lose weight because they are obese or for any other reason, the usage of zero calorie or non nutritive sweeteners can be a huge boon.
All of them are highly processed and packaged.
NATURAL VS ARTIFICIAL NON NUTRITIVE SWEETENERS:
Stevia is classified as a natural sweetener. Sucralose is classified as an artificial sweetener.
Products are sold saying only natural sweeteners are used and are sold at a premium for using stevia.
The amount of research done on artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose is huge compared to stevia.
Remember that just because something is found in nature doesn’t automatically make it better.
Case in point, the number of poisonous substances found in nature vs medicines artificially made in labs.
So one is not necessarily better than the other. Choose what fits your needs and body better.
DO THEY AFFECT GUT MICROBIOME?
Yes they do, just as any drastic change in diet affects the gut microbiome. What we don’t know is what kind of change this is. The dose-response relationship has not been established for such an effect.
OUR PERSONAL TAKE:
While we always encourage whole, unpackaged and unprocessed foods being the bulk of your diet, we also advocate moderation and practical and sustainable lifestyle habits and discourage extremes.
We do consume some artificial sweeteners on occasion, because it keeps our sweet cravings down. An occasional zero calorie soda or some sucralose or stevia to sweeten a dessert does the trick for us.
If you’re going to use artificial sweeteners and then “reward” yourself with another treat, it defeats the entire purpose.
And as with everything in life, moderation is necessary.