Artificial Sweeteners: Myths Debunked

You want to cut calories and lose weight, and you know one way to do that is to reduce your sugar intake and opt for drinks and foods that contain artificial, low- or no-calorie sweeteners. Yet some people believe these are dangerous and may even lead to sugar cravings and weight gain later on. So how do we find a balance between satisfying a sweet tooth and staying healthy? We turned to New York City nutritionist, Tanya Zuckerbrot, creator of The F-Factor Diet, for some guidance. Moderation, it turns out, is the key.

Myth: Artificial sweeteners cause cancer

Truth: “According to the National Cancer Institute, there is no scientific evidence that any of the artificial sweeteners approved for use in the United States cause any health problems,” Zuckerbrot says. “When choosing an artificial sweetener, stick to those that have received the FDA's GRAS (generally recognized as safe) approval. The sweetener's that appear on that list are: Aspartame: Equal, Nutrasweet; Saccharin: Sweet 'N Low; Sucralose: Splenda; and Stevia: Stevia, Stevia Extract.”

Myth: Artificial sweeteners don't add any health benefits

Truth: “Some sweeteners provide additional nutritional benefits aside from cutting calories. For example, Splenda essentials provide sweeteners with a nutritional punch, such as 1 gram of fiber added per packet, B vitamins or antioxidants,” she says. “Most Americans do not even come close to consuming the recommended 25 to 35 grams fiber a day. A fiber-rich diet not only helps you lose weight, but is loaded with additional health benefits.”

Myth: Artificial sweeteners help control my sweet tooth

Truth: “Since artificial sweeteners range from 200-1,300 times sweeter than sugar, you are actually giving yourself much more of a sweet tooth,” Zuckerbrot says. “You are numbing your taste buds and relying on foods and beverages to be much sweeter. This is like having a sugar addiction and becoming unsatisfied when you don't get the sweet you need. And let's face it, when you are craving sweets all the time you are eventually going to give in to temptations (binging on cookies or candy-loss of control basically).”

Myth: Diet sodas sweetened with artificial sweeteners will help me lose weight

Truth: “A recent study conducted at the University of Texas found that people who drink diet soft drinks don't lose weight. In fact, they gain weight,” Zuckerbrot says. “The surprising part is that those who drink diet-soft drinks have a 10 percent greater risk of becoming obese than those who drink regular soft-drinks. A possible explanation is that individuals tend to overcompensate when they chose a diet beverage. We've all heard someone order a Big Mac, fries and a Diet Coke!”

Myth: Regular sugar is better than artificial sweeteners

Truth: “In a society where serving sizes have become incredibly skewed, artificial sweeteners provide a safe alternative to sugar, which has exploded in the diets of many Americans,” she says. “A teaspoon of sugar has only 16 calories, however a 12-ounce bottle of regular soda contains 8 teaspoons, or an additional 128 calories! For someone trying to control their weight, or a diabetic individual, an artificial sweetener is the way to go.”

*Editor's note: There was a recent update to this post regarding the amount of calories in a teaspoon of sugar.

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8 Comments
  • anonymous
    Posted on

    its very sad when a nutritionist has to post bogus studies for all of us subscribers and others to read. In the 90's a study was done on artificial sweeteners, it was proven that they eventually cause cancer (if you ingest it for a long time).but what is a long time if you are using it daily? New Beauty needs to sensor whatever is posted by the so called "professionals".The basic reason why people dont lose weight is because they are waiting for a magic pill was has not been discovered yet.The only "MagicPill" that has been proven to work is eat less and get yourself off of the couch.let me break it down: eat from plants,eg,veggies/fruits,NOT something made in a plant,last but not least,get some exercise,and try to live a healthy life.dont forget to eat in moderation either way...

  • anonymous
    Posted on

    Artificial sweetners are absolutely awful! I was a diet coke drinker for years. I noticed the women I knew who had lots of cellulite, drank lots of diet coke. I was beginning to get more and more cellulite, so I stopped drinking diet coke. Along with diet coke, I also had Splenda everyday. I would use Splenda in my 2 cups of coffee each day. I was also eating sugar free products daily with sucralose. I have gained about 15 pounds over the last few years, and haven't been able to get the weight off. I was running 6 miles a day, and was still chunky. For the past two years, I started getting panic attacks daily. Things were really really bad. I love Target and had a panic attack walking into Target. I was getting panic attacks every time I rode or drove in the car. I knew something had to change, something was wrong. I began to examine my consumption, and I noticed how much artificial sweetners I actually consumed each day. I have cut out the Splenda, and it is night and day. I have my life again. The anxiety and panic attacks are gone, and I am unintentionally losing weight. My cellulite has actually decreased as well. I feel so much better.

  • Posted on

    For those who posted comments about my Q&A about artificial sweeteners, I appreciate your feedback. As a Registered Dietitian, my answers were based on established facts and unbiased research. A great deal of research was done on the safety of nonnutritive sweeteners before the FDA granted GRAS (generally recognized as safe) approval. No correlation has been found between nonnutritive sweeteners and cancer risk. Let me clarify that I don’t encourage or discourage the use of nonnutritive sweeteners. I believe it is a matter of personal choice. When it comes to weight loss, for example, if your diet contains a lot of sugar, switching to a nonnutritive sweetener can help you consume fewer calories without sacrificing sweetness in your diet. If by using a nonnutritive sweetener you to cut a mere 100 calories a day, you can lose as much as 10 pounds in a year. That’s 100 pounds over a decade. On the flip side, adding 100 calories a day can produce 10 pounds in weight gain in a year. The serious health consequences associated with obesity are well documented. Being overweight is a known risk factor for heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, and more. For anyone who is overweight and struggling to lose weight, I believe nonnutritive sweeteners can be helpful and so can consuming less sugar. Ultimately, either option is fine used in moderation. In regard to the reader who experienced aspartame poisoning, while your situation is relatively unique it does highlight the fact that some people suffer from aspartame sensitivity. This can be attributed to the fact that aspartame contains 50% Phenylalanine, an essential amino acid important for growth and brain development/function. There are people who have PKU (Phenylketonuric), a metabolic disorder in which Phenylalanine cannot be broken down. Every newborn in the U.S. is tested for PKU and those who test positive must follow a strict PKU diet that absolutely restricts aspartame

  • matnkat5
    Posted on

    I was a huge diet soda drinker, loved it, my son used to joke around and call it cancer in a can, never did I believe that it could cause cancer, but I found myself to be craving sweets, muscle pain beyond belief, and I had become extremely anemic, the headaches I was getting had become migraines, and getting those five times a week. I have been visiting the doctor more than visiting with my friends, when my hemoglobin became dangerously low, he asked me how much diet soda was I REALLY drinking, when I told him the truth that I was drinking 60 to 70 ounces a day, I had become a chain drinker, and it had become worse, because I was so tired and had so little energy, I felt like if I drank more it would give me more energy. He told me to research the side effects of aspartame, and so I did, I was completely shocked! Shocked to see that I was text book for aspartame poisoning, migraines, symptoms simulating fibromyalgia, anemia. I immediately started weening myself off of diet soda, and the headaches and insomnia were awful when I was going thru "detox", now I am completely off aspartame, and I read all sugar free product labels. You can believe what you will about aspartame, but since I stopped drinking it, my headaches have been reduced to once or twice a week, my muscle aches have become less, and my hemoglobin, with the help of iron supplements has gone up, in just three weeks, I can't wait to see where it is in a month. I do use splenda for my coffee, but trying to keep that at a minimum. Do I think someone using aspartame in moderation is in danger, probably not, but with me, there is no moderation in it.

  • HardyHarHar
    Posted on

    Is this article a joke?? It seems like it written by some sort of artificial sweetener lobbying coalition. The first three "myths" are actually true and if you were to do two minutes of research on any respectable site, you'd figure that out. The point of this article seems to give people justification for their stupid decisions. Fiber and antioxidants? Are you kidding? Between some idiot in the sidebar commenting on a article about lip lifts and this, I've lost all respect for New Beauty.

  • post
    Posted on

    If you find water to be boring why not drink green or black tea instead of soda? It's good for you and has no sugar or anything artificial :) I stay away from artificial sweeteners. They taste TERRIBLE! How about exercise? Maybe take the stairs at work instead of riding the elevator up two floors. It's called common sense. It's all you need to maintain a healthy weight.

  • hbanks
    Posted on

    The cancer institute studies cancer. We are talking brain cells when we discuss these sweeteners and tons of research was done in this area. More fiber? Are you kidding me? Bad reason. If you have to sweeten, go with the real deal. If you want to lose weight, stop drinking soda and increase your water intake. After 30 days of no soda, see how you feel. I guarantee you'll feel so much better. Check out the people whose health and bodies you admire - they DON'T drink soda.

  • anonymous
    Posted on

    I can relate 2 this article. Last month I decided 2 eliminate regular sugar and replace with Stevia 2 see what results I would get if any. I have lost 4 pounds in 4 weeks. For me that was great. This month I'm adding exercise 3 days a week as an experiment. Just need 2 loose 5 more pounds but don't want 2 sacrifice on killer diets.

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