Artificial sweeteners are ubiquitous in our food system. Food manufacturers add them to sodas, energy and sports drinks, protein powders, health bars, yogurt, gum, candy, and pharmaceuticals (including syrups and antibiotics for children). Artificial sweeteners are the food industry’s way of harmonizing our cravings for sweet things with our concern for calories. The appeal is that we can enjoy sweet food without the weight gain and deleterious spikes in blood sugar. Seems like a win-win, right? Not so fast. Despite FDA approval, these non-nutritive sweeteners pose a threat in terms of weight gain, food cravings, gut health, and more.
Artificial sweeteners include Sucralose (Splenda), Aspartame (Equal, Nutrasweet), and Saccharin (Sweet’n Low). Ironically, they contribute to the same weight, obesity, and diabetes epidemic that they are advertised to provide a solution for!
Artificial sweeteners make you crave – and eat – more food.
The majority of taste buds on a human tongue are there to sense sweetness. When we eat something sweet, nerves from the tongue send messages to the reward centers in the brain, urging us to eat MORE of the sweet stuff. Historically, this served a purpose. In our hunter-gatherer days, food wasn’t easy to come by. Whenever we came across high-calorie sweet foods, our brains prompted our bodies to eat more! This was awesome in terms of not starving to death; less awesome when it comes to overabundant, hyper-sweet chemicals.