Time and time again we are told sugar is bad for us. Naturally, we all want to be healthy, so we reach for the diet-drinks—the sugar-free alternatives that are marketed as better for us. But what if these products contained something that is far worse for your body than sugar? Artificial sweeteners are not food, they are chemicals. They come from chemical laboratories or pharmaceutical research, not from plants or trees. They are highly toxic, have been proven to be carcinogenic, and they confuse the body’s natural rhythms. Let’s take a look at the three main artificial sweeteners to avoid, and some natural, healthy alternatives that support your body while satisfying your sweet tooth.
Not a Weight-Loss Aid
Artificial sweeteners were first introduced as a diet-product, targeted at those looking to shed a few pounds. So it may surprise you to know they have the opposite effect. The truth is these sweeteners actually help to pile on the pounds.
Your body has complex systems to regulate appetite and energy balance. When you eat real sugar or food, your body recognizes it and releases satiety hormones like Leptin and Ghrelin to signal it has had enough calories. On the other hand, when you consume artificial sweeteners, you’re confusing your body: giving it the sweetness without the calories. This leads to hunger, overeating, and weight gain: the exact opposite to the marketing hype.
Research published in the American Journal of Behavioral Neuroscience in 2008 shows that artificial sweeteners actually stimulate appetite, increase cravings for carbohydrates, and promote fat storage and weight gain.  In other words, if you’re trying to lose weight, reaching for the artificially sweetened food or drink may make your dieting much harder!
But there’s more. As we’ve seen, artificial sweeteners are not foods, they are chemicals. And human beings were never designed to consume chemicals. Worse, these substances over-stimulate the brain and can lead to brain-cell death, and side effects like dizziness and confusion. Let’s look at the main ones to avoid:
Added to sugar free foods like diet yogurts, flavored water, ice creams, cereals and many more, aspartame is the best known and probably most widely used artificial sweetener. It’s composed of 50% phenylalanine, 40% aspartic acid, and 10% methanol (wood alcohol). Why is this important? Well, research indicates that excessive amounts of phenylalanine in the brain causes your levels of serotonin, your body’s happy chemical, to decrease, which in turn can lead to disorders like anxiety and depression.  Aspartic acid is an excito-toxin. This means it over-stimulates the neurons in your brain until they die. According to a 2008 study by the University of Pretoria in South Africa published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, aspartame is linked to neurological disorders like ADHD, depression and Alzheimer’s.  Methanol is a known neurotoxin and carcinogen. When ingested, the body metabolizes it into formaldehyde (or embalming fluid), which is itself a carcinogen.
Little wonder that a plethora of studies link aspartame to degenerative and chronic conditions like leukemia, epilepsy, psychiatric disorders, reproductive problems and cancer. If you can avoid this toxic ingredient, please do!
Saccharine’s scientific name is benzoic sulfilimine, which sounds distinctly less appetizing. It is 700 times sweeter than sugar, hitting your senses with a level of sweetness never found in nature. And it’s made up of compounds you would not want on your plate, namely anthranilic acid, nitrous acid, sulfur dioxide, chlorine and ammonia. It was accidentally “discovered” in 1878 by a chemist working on coal tar at Johns Hopkins University. In the 1970’s research linked this artificial sweetener to bladder cancer, based on studies carried out on rats. Subsequent studies have proven the link is not applicable to humans, however benzoic sulfilimine is listed as a carcinogen  , so it’s probably best not to add it to your morning cup of coffee.
This sweetener is not calorie-free because it contains dextrose and maltodextrin, which are both sugars. Sucralose is made by chlorinating sugar, and is 600 times sweeter than the white stuff you spoon into your tea. It might be advertised as a sugar replacement, but its molecular structure actually bears a closer resemblance to the banned chemical DDT.  And that’s not all—sucralose actually reduces the amount of good bacteria in your gut that is so vital for good health. Researchers at the Department of Pharmacology at Duke University in the USA administered sucralose to rats and found that it dramatically affected their gut microflora, cutting the good bacteria by 50%! 
Time to say NO to Artificial Sweeteners
It may feel like a good idea to reach for the sugar-free diet drink rather than the regular version, but these foods are not a healthy option. They confuse your body into wanting more sweetness and will make you feel hungrier and more likely to overeat. Not only that, they contain chemicals your body does not know how to deal with and that cause a myriad of chronic health conditions, from depression to cancer. It’s time to ditch the artificial sweeteners and reach for natural alternatives that satisfy your sweet tooth without compromising your health. Which will you try?
Healthy Natural Sweetener Options
Satisfy your sweet tooth with these delicious nutritious sweeteners!
- Honey – buy local raw organic honey and enjoy the delicate taste of flower nectar in your herbal tea. What’s more, raw honey is rich in antioxidants and essential minerals.
- Coconut sugar – dark brown in color, this sugar has a deep caramel flavor and is a healthier option for your cakes. It contains essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals, like magnesium and zinc.
- Maple syrup – made from the sap of the sugar maple tree, this sweetener tastes delicious drizzled over yogurt or pancakes. Maple syrup contains a healthy dose of zinc, manganese and calcium.
- Molasses – this is the substance left over after the process of refining sugar cane into white sugar. It is nutrient-dense and contains a good amount of calcium, iron and vitamin B6.
- Dates – also called “nature’s fudge”, dates taste like sweet caramel and can be chopped and added to cereals, yogurts, cakes, and any dish you feel needs a little extra sweetness. And they’re packed with nutrients and healthy fiber.