The combination of America’s enormous appetite for sweets and its obsession with thinness has led to a flood of artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose that are used throughout the food industry, especially in products that are labeled “light” or “healthy”. This first seemed to be the silver bullet that dieters were looking for: a way to lose weight without giving up the desserts and sodas that they loved. However, if something looks too good to be true, then it’s probably time to take another look. Recent research has linked artificial sweeteners with a variety of health problems, including those listed below.
It is ironic that these artificial sweeteners, which have been marketed heavily to people trying to shed unwanted pounds, can actually promote weight gain. One piece of research from the San Antonio Heart Study which tracked participants over the course of eight years, found that weight gain and obesity were significantly higher in those who consumed diet beverages than those who did not.
Another recent study found that those who consume diet soft drinks laced with artificial sweeteners have an increased risk for metabolic syndrome. This syndrome is actually a group of symptoms which all occur together and people suffering from this will generally present with high cholesterol levels, deposition of fat in the abdominal region, and increased blood sugar and blood pressure. Not surprisingly, this syndrome puts people at much greater risk for cardiovascular disease, strokes and a whole array of other health problems.
Medical research is also increasingly linking the consumptions of these additives with a significant increase in the risk of developing Type II diabetes. In some studies, this risk has more than doubled for those participants who consumed the highest amount of products containing artificial sweeteners. What is most disturbing in its implications is that even those who had a normal body weight and consumed these additives were at a greater risk for diabetes development.
High Blood Pressure and Heart Disease
Studies are also uncovering links between artificial sweeteners and an increased risk for high blood pressure (hypertension) and heart disease. This seems to be particularly true for women: several recent research papers have found that when women consume elevated levels of these additives, their risk for these serious conditions was significantly elevated. As heart disease remains one of the leading killers of women in America, this is certainly something to take note of.
The sad truth is that, far from being the healthy substitute to sugar that the food industry has promoted them as, artificial sweeteners actually promote obesity and can lead to the development of the conditions mentioned above. For those wanting to achieve or maintain a healthy weight, moderate amounts of natural sweeteners like honey or stevia remain the safest choice.