With American’s becoming savvier about reading food labels, manufactures have begun to market foods as “fat free”, “light” and “sugar free”. Foods that are normally sweet but labeled sugar free are often sweetened with artificial sweeteners. At first glance, one might think that sugar free is a good thing, after all, aren’t we supposed to decrease our sugar intake?
In actuality, artificial sweeteners are often worse for us than refined sugar. Some common artificial sweeteners are: aspartame, acesulfame, neotame, sucralose, and saccharin. While there are studies showing that artificial sweeteners are safe for human consumption, these products are a chemically processed. There are actually over 900 studies showing aspartame in particular, to be a health hazard. In fact, the FDA has received more complaints on adverse reactions to aspartame than for all other food additives combined. People with adverse reactions to artificial sweeteners often complain of migraines, skin rashes, digestive issues, low moods, dizziness or poor equilibrium, insomnia, chronic inflammation and fatigue.
Those who drank more than four cans or glasses of diet soda or other artificially sweetened beverages had a nearly 30 percent higher risk of depression compared to those who did not consume diet drinks. Regular soda drinkers had a 22 percent increased risk.
Previous studies have also shown that aspartame has a detrimental effect on brain function, neurological, cognitive, and behavioral health.
In one study, people who drank two or more diet sodas a day had five times the increase in waist circumference over a 10-year period compared to people who didn’t drink any diet soda. The two main ingredients of aspartame, phenylalanine and aspartic acid, stimulate the release of insulin and leptin — hormones that instruct your body to store fat.
In addition, a large intake of phenylalanine can drive down your serotonin levels. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that tells you when you’re full. A low level of serotonin can bring on food cravings, which can lead to weight gain.
If you currently consume artificial sweeteners, work to reduce and eventually eliminate them from your diet. Be aware that reduction should be a gradual process, as many people report withdrawal symptoms after eliminating their consumption of these types of sweeteners.