The bitter truth about artificial sweeteners

I’ve written a lot about artificial sweeteners — specifically, about how they aren’t good for you or your weight loss goals. But as usual, it’s hard to say how many people have actually gotten the message.

And even if you have, a stark reminder now and then is always worth the time it takes to issue.

There’s a new study out… and it’s bad news for anyone who’s been brainwashed by the diet soda business into thinking they’re making a healthier choice.

This new review and meta-analysis delivers so-called “mixed evidence” supporting the role of artificial sweeteners in weight loss. (Hardly a glowing endorsement for products that often feature the word “diet” in their names.) But that’s not even the worst part…

Results also showed that consuming artificial sweeteners on a daily basis may actually be linked with weight gain over the long haul… and more concerning, a higher risk of cardiometabolic disease.

Pardon me while I recover from the shock.

These are chemicals after all — many of which have spent the last several decades hopping on and off of the list of known cancer-causing agents. They should be consumed with caution at the very least. (And in a perfect world, not at all.)

But this hasn’t stopped the beverage industry from churning out more and more of these potentially cancer-causing drinks. And now we’re hearing (not for the first time, either) that they may increase your risk for heart disease too.

Why would anyone want to take this kind of risk with their body? And why does the government still allow it?

I think we all know the answer to that second question. And let’s be honest — even if more research is needed to reach a definitive conclusion, who’s going to go toe-to-toe against big chemical companies to pursue it?

If current trends are any indication, not many. Surprisingly, there are few studies that have taken the time to examine the long-term impact of artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose.

This, despite the fact that nearly half of all Americans use them regularly. (In fact, studies have revealed that a very large portion of people consume artificial sweeteners without knowing it. They’re even turning up in the blood and urine samples of people who report avoiding them.)

Just as a reminder, here’s why that’s a problem: Research established significant links between non-nutritive sweeteners and gains in body weight, BMI, and waist size. Not to mention elevated risks of high blood pressure, stroke, heart-related events, and type 2 diabetes.

And we’re not talking about the results of some tiny one-off study, either. We’re talking about big studies featuring large groups of subjects that researchers followed for a long duration.

One of these is the famous Framingham Heart Study — which showed that people who drank one or more cans of diet soda every day faced triple the risk of stroke and dementia, compared to people who never touched the stuff.

So frankly, the fact that the government has decided that these artificial sweeteners are safe for consumption (much less continues to allow them to be marketed as healthy alternatives to sugar) is as horrifying as it is predictable.

Granted, one could argue that unhealthy people simply tend to reach for artificial sweeteners more often — not that the sweeteners themselves do any damage. But one look at the latest findings flushes that theory right down the toilet where it belongs.

Recent studies have shown, for example, that artificial sweeteners alter the microbiome in rats and humans — making it “obesogenic.” Evidence also suggests that regularly consuming them hijacks the metabolism, paving the way toward high blood sugar, insulin resistance, and weight gain.

At the very least, calorie-free sweeteners make it easier to justify other unhealthy choices. (Just think about how often you’ve seen someone order a large Diet Coke with their burger and fries.)

That’s a mind game that you don’t need to play with yourself. So you know what?

Just say no. Artificial sweeteners are artificial. They have no business in your body. Not when there are natural sweeteners out there — like stevia, my personal favorite — that offer the same supposed benefits without the extensively documented risks.