Artificial sweeteners have been touted as a weight loss product for decades, but given the rise in both obesity and diabetes, isn’t it clear that they aren’t working? Artificial coloring agents and other artificial ingredients have proliferated in recent years, but so has the number of health problems associated with them.
The Problems With Artificial Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners initially seemed like a great idea. They contained few to no calories, many of them didn’t increase blood sugar level, and they didn’t contribute to tooth decay. Sugar-sweetened beverages like soda and energy drinks contain massive amounts of sugar and can significantly damage your teeth. But even diet sodas maintain high acid levels that cause similar erosion to your teeth and over time will begin to dissolve the outer surface of your tooth enamel.
However, the consumption of artificially sweetened beverages seems to short-circuit the body’s caloric consumption tracking and can make people crave sweets. A 2004 study by Professor Terry Davidson and associate professor Susan Swithers of Purdue University1 found that artificial sweeteners impaired the body’s natural ability to regulate food intake. They discovered that the body learns that it can use food attributes such as sweetness and viscosity to measure its caloric intake. It then uses this knowledge to decide how much food is required to meet its caloric needs. When artificial sweeteners are used instead of real sugar, the body may be fooled into thinking that a product sweetened with sugar has no calories, and therefore will make you overeat. This study may explain why someone who consistently drinks coffee with real sugar with their breakfast eats fewer calories than someone who wakes up to an artificially-flavored energy drink.
Artificial sweeteners drastically alter our intestinal bacteria, and these changes make rodents more prone to glucose intolerance. For this reason, our consumption of artificial sweeteners may be raising our risk of diabetes despite lower sugar intake. A 2013 study showed that consuming both beverages with sugar and artificial sweeteners increased the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, though there isn’t a clear causal link.2 For example, those who are overweight and thus at risk for diabetes may be consuming these beverages to lose weight, and the correlation may be because of the demographics of the consumer, not the beverages consumed.
Artificial sweeteners were labeled a cancer risk in the 1970s, but later tests found that not to be true. For this reason, we can say you don’t need to be concerned about artificial sweeteners causing cancer. However, newer studies may contradict this. A 2013 University of North Carolina report found that sucralose, the main ingredient in Splenda, cannot be broken down by intestinal bacteria.3
What Are The Alternatives?
If you’re concerned about blood sugar levels or caloric intake, consider natural ingredients like sugar alcohols. They’re naturally present in certain fruits, but they can be manufactured, as well. They contain fewer calories than regular sugar, but they don’t contain alcohol.
It tastes sweet but doesn’t add calories. It is derived from a natural source and been used for hundreds of years. In short, it is proven safe.
Furthermore, a 2010 study in the publication “Appetite” found that stevia doesn’t cause over-eating the way artificial sweeteners do. And those who use stevia extract as a sugar alternative had lower after-meal blood glucose and insulin levels, suggesting stevia may assist with glucose regulation.4 Those who consumed stevia had lower insulin levels than if they’d eaten food with either aspartame or sucrose, as well. The Natural Standard Research Collaboration’s initial research gave stevia a grade B for lowering blood pressure, though this requires further study to be confirmed.5 Monk fruit has also been advertised as an alternative to sugar, but unfortunately, there have not been enough studies to support this claim.
Artificial Versus Natural Food Coloring
Bright colors attract our attention, and food manufacturers have been adding artificial food coloring to products to capture our attention and most importantly our money. In other cases, food coloring is added to make inferior foods match our expectations for how they should look. Multiple studies concluded that a percentage of the population reacts negatively to specific artificial food colorings, but no smoking gun says the general population is at a health risk from these artificial colors. However, natural colorings derived from fruits and vegetables are undoubtedly your safest option.
For these reasons, companies should opt for beet powder over artificially manufactured red dye or beta-carotene from natural sources over a synthesized yellow dye. Natural coloring agents like beets and turmeric provide vitamins and minerals as well as a rich and vibrant color to your recipes. However, not all natural food colorings are safe for everyone. Cochineal extract, derived from crushed bugs, can cause allergic reactions in some, and it caused outrage when vegans discovered it was being used to make their coffee red.6
Guaranteed safety is one of the benefits of companies that provide all-natural products like RARI Nutrition. Every product in the RARI Nutrition line of performance supplements, from our Amino Mend BCAAs + Hydration to all three flavors of our INFINITY Pre-Workout are crafted with 100% natural ingredients.
Natural ingredients will always triumph over artificial ingredients because the human body responds to them appropriately. Your body will always be able to break down natural ingredients in the proper ways. It’s essential to choose products made with natural ingredients so that the delicate hormonal balance that regulates appetite, fat storage, and a hundred other factors aren’t turned upside down by the consumption of low-calorie natural sugar alternatives or food colorings.