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The truth about artificial sweeteners and ‘diet’ drinks

The truth about artificial sweeteners and ‘diet’ drinks

Are artificial sweeteners good or bad for you?

It’s a common misconception that ‘diet’ soft drinks are healthier than their non-diet counterparts – such as Coke and Diet Coke – but the truth is they can they even more destructive to your health.

study released in April 2017 examined whether sugar or artificially sweetened beverage consumption was associated with an increased risk of stroke, dementia & Alzheimer disease.  The beverage intake of 5124 volunteers was examined using food questionnaires and they were observed for a total of ten years. What the results showed might come as a shock to you.

The true impact of artificial sweeteners on your health

Artificially sweetened soft drink consumption was associated with a higher risk of stroke, dementia and Alzheimer’s. Sugar sweetened beverages such as fruit juice or sugar-sweetened soft drink consumption (like Coca-Cola) was not.  Furthermore, the risk of stroke in those drinking one or more artificially sweetened soft drinks a day was almost tripled! The finding for Alzheimer’s risk was very similar.

This particular study caught my eye because too often clients that come to me are consuming these toxic chemicals on a daily basis and think it’s ok because they’re sugar free.  Other common dietary behaviours of my clients relating to artificial sweeteners include adding Splenda or Equal to their coffee, eating sugar-free lollies or consuming a protein powder that contains sucralose, a very common ingredient found in protein powders.

Artificial  sweeteners have snuck their way into a vast array of products as it means businesses can keep the sugar content and calorie per serve down on the nutrition panel. A key reason why people favour artificially sweetened options is because they believe that they will  support weight loss.  Ironically, other studies have shown that artificial sweeteners dramatically increase your risk for obesity and diabetes, despite being low in calories or being promoted ‘diet’ or ‘light’. The power of marketing! Artificial sweeteners destroy the good bacteria that live in our digestive tracts and overtime make them less tolerant to glucose (the building blocks of sugar), driving drive insulin resistance and thus diabetes.

The take-away isn’t to switch from Diet Coke to Coca-Cola but to recognise that substituting sugar with ‘fake sugar’ DOES NOT make it a healthier option and in the case of stroke, dementia and diabetes can be worse. Despite the common perception that ‘diet’ is better for you. A little bit of sugar here or there won’t kill you but too much of either one may.

What ingredients should you avoid and look out for?

Here is a shortlist of some key words to watch out for on product packages and ingredient lists that are linked to or are a form of artificial sweeteners:

  • Diet
  • Sugar free
  • Low calorie
  • Sucralose
  • Skinny
  • Aspartame
  • Acesulfame potassium
  • Neotame
  • Saccharin

If you need help

Some studies have shown that the brains response to sugar is similar to that of illicit substances such as cocaine. If you are struggling with your nutrition, or feel as though you need some guidance to navigate what foods to eat to support your health, feel free to contact Health Space or book in for an appointment with Steph Malouf.

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