By Dr. Mercola
U.S. health agencies, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continue to claim that artificial sweeteners are safe in the amounts typically consumed.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) even went so far as to say a 150-pound adult can safely consume “17 [12-ounce] cans of soda or 97.4 packets of artificial sweetener containing aspartame daily and not be adversely affected.”1
The science, however, would seem to suggest otherwise. Research published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, for instance, found aspartame intake is associated with greater glucose intolerance in people with obesity.2
Glucose intolerance is a condition in which your body loses its ability to cope with high amounts of sugar, and it's a well-known precursor to type 2 diabetes. It also plays a role in obesity, because the excess sugar in your blood ends up being stored in your fat cells.
This means obese individuals who use aspartame may have higher blood sugar levels, which in turn will raise insulin levels, leading to related weight gain, inflammation and an increased risk of diabetes.3
How Artificial Sweeteners Set the Tone for Weight Gain and Diabetes
Consuming artificial sweeteners causes a cascade of negative metabolic effects in your body. Research published in PLOS One found regularly consuming artificially sweetened soft drinks is associated with several disorders of metabolic syndrome, including:4
- Abdominal obesity
- Insulin resistance
- Impaired glucose intolerance
- Abnormally elevated fats in the blood
- High blood pressure
The study found drinking aspartame-sweetened diet soda daily increased the risk of type 2 diabetes by 67 percent (regardless of whether they gained weight or not) and the risk of metabolic syndrome 36 percent.
One way artificial sweeteners may increase diabetes risk is by altering your gut microbes. Research published in the journal Nature found, in fact, that artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering gut microbiota.5
Artificial Sweeteners May Induce ‘Metabolic Derangements’
Consuming artificial sweeteners also appears to interfere with your body’s ability to count calories, with deleterious effects.In a report published in the journal Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism, Susan Swithers, a professor of behavioral neuroscience at Purdue University in Indiana, wrote:6
“ … [A]ccumulating evidence suggests that frequent consumers of these sugar substitutes may also be at increased risk of excessive weight gain, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
… [C]onsuming sweet-tasting but noncaloric or reduced-calorie food and beverages interferes with learned responses that normally contribute to glucose and energy homeostasis.
Because of this interference, frequent consumption of high-intensity sweeteners may have the counterintuitive effect of inducing metabolic derangements.”
Aspartame May Become More Toxic When Heated
When you buy an aspartame-sweetened soda, you have no way of knowing whether it was exposed to high temperatures during storage or transport, yet this could be an important factor in its toxicity.
An investigation conducted by the food risks assessment department of the center for environmental and noospheric researches of the Armenian National Academy of Sciences recently looked into this factor, as temperatures in Yerevan, Armenia may exceed 95 degrees F.
Soft drinks, meanwhile, are often stored in open air wholesale warehouses, under direct sunlight or on hot asphalt. The study found that the safety of aspartame-sweetened soft drinks could not be guaranteed because of this improper storage exposing the drinks to high temperatures.7
When aspartame is heated to above 86 degrees F (30 degrees C), free methanol is created. This would occur not only when aspartame-containing products are improperly stored but also when they are heated (e.g., as part of a diet "food" product such as gelatin).
Methanol breaks down into formic acid and formaldehyde in your body. Formaldehyde is a deadly neurotoxin. A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) assessment of methanol states that methanol:8
" … is considered a cumulative poison due to the low rate of excretion once it is absorbed. In the body, methanol is oxidized to formaldehyde and formic acid; both of these metabolites are toxic."
Artificial Sweeteners May Increase Depression Risk
Adverse neurological effects of artificial sweeteners have been suspected for some time. One study published in 2014 included nearly 264,000 U.S. adults over the age of 50 who were enrolled in an AARP diet and health study. At the outset of the study, the participants filled out a detailed dietary survey.
At a 10-year follow-up, they were asked whether they’d been diagnosed with depression at any point during the past decade.
Those who drank more than four cans of diet soda or other artificially sweetened beverages a day had a nearly 30 percent higher risk of depression compared to those who did not consume diet drinks.9
The researchers explained that aspartame may modulate brain neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin. Even as far back as 1987, researchers had their suspicions that aspartame may be harmful to your brain. According to a review published in Environmental Health Perspectives:10
“The artificial sweetener aspartame (L-aspartyl-L-phenylalanyl-methyl ester), is consumed, primarily in beverages, by a very large number of Americans, causing significant elevations in plasma and, probably, brain phenylalanine levels.
Anecdotal reports suggest that some people suffer neurologic or behavioral reactions in association with aspartame consumption.
Since phenylalanine can be neurotoxic and can affect the synthesis of inhibitory monoamine neurotransmitters, the phenylalanine in aspartame could conceivably mediate neurologic effects.”
CSPI Says ‘Avoid’ Splenda After Study Links It to Cancer
Research from the Ramazzini Institute, an independent nonprofit organization, linked sucralose (brand name Splenda) to cancer, specifically leukemia.
The findings were first presented at a London cancer conference in 2012 and prompted The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) to downgrade Splenda from its ‘safe’ category to one of ‘caution.’
In 2016, the study was published in a peer-reviewed journal, the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, leading CSPI to downgrade Splenda from “caution” to “avoid.”11 The researchers fed mice Splenda beginning prenatally and continuing for their entire lifespan.
The mice were fed varying concentrations of the artificial sweetener: 0 ppm (parts per million), 500 ppm, 2,000 ppm, 8,000 ppm or 16,000 ppm. A significant increase in cancerous tumors was seen among male mice, and the risk increased along with the dose.
The risk of leukemia in male mice also significantly increased, especially at Splenda doses of 2,000 to 16,000 ppm.12 According to the study:
“These findings do not support previous data that sucralose is biologically inert. More studies are necessary to show the safety of sucralose, including new and more adequate carcinogenic bioassay on rats. Considering that millions of people are likely exposed, follow-up studies are urgent.”
After more than a decade, CSPI has finally gotten it right about Splenda in recommending that consumers avoid it. For the record, however, CSPI is generally an organization whose guidelines need to be taken with a grain of salt. For instance, while recommending that people avoid artificial sweeteners like sucralose, aspartame and saccharin, they still consider drinking diet soda to be safer than drinking regular soda.
Splenda Tries to Save Its Tarnished Image by Hiring Monsanto’s PR Firm
Notorious PR firm Ketchum works closely with Monsanto and the biotech industry to promote genetically engineered (GE) crops and downplay the concerns surrounding genetically modified organisms (GMOs).13 The latest company to hire Ketchum as its PR AOR (agency of record) is Heartland Food Products Group for its artificial sweetener Splenda. Heartland acquired Splenda from McNeil Nutritionals, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, in 2015.14
Splenda’s reputation could clearly use a boost, and who better to do so than Ketchum, a "disaster PR expert" that has done work for a number of politicians and world leaders with image problems, as well as corrupt governments around the world? Ketchum’s first assignment will be the new product launch of Splenda Naturals, which are due out in October 2016. Splenda has tried to align itself with natural products before.
They previously used the slogan “Made from sugar, so it tastes like sugar,” which is misleading since Splenda is not natural nor does it contain elements of natural sugar.
Outsmart Your Sweet Cravings Naturally
Although they taste sweet, when it comes to your health it’s clear that artificial sweeteners are sour. When a sweets craving strikes, resist the urge to reach for an artificially sweetened food or beverage and eat something naturally sour instead.
Sour taste, such as that from fermented vegetables or water spruced up with lemon or lime juice, helps to reduce cravings for sweets. If that doesn’t appeal to you, try a cup of organic black coffee, an opioid receptor that can bind to your opioid receptors, occupy them and essentially block your addiction to other opioid-releasing food.15,16
I also recommend addressing your cravings on an emotional level. Turbo Tapping, which is a version of the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), is specifically suited to help eliminate sweet cravings and it can be done virtually anywhere, anytime a craving strikes.