Recently someone told me that some are really bad for your liver and in large amounts not healthier than large amounts of sugar.
I haven’t had time to look up their sources, but it was a professor at uni who told them. Do you have any insight that I might be lacking?
Now I am not interested in stuff like the bogus aspartam rat studies, those weren’t any good.
I mostly believe that most artificial sweeteners are not very unhealthy and thus miles better than sugars. So drinks or food sweetened with it should be good imo.
Relaxed section for discussion and debate that doesn’t fit anywhere else. Whether it’s AMAs, advice, how your week is going, or a question that’s at the back of your mind, it can likely go here.
Look, I’m sure they’re not exactly good for you, but none of them come anywhere close to the death toll of sugar. People die every day from sugar, people don’t die every day from artificial sweeteners. The fact that the health effects of artificial sweeteners are merely “suspected” or “controversial”, vs every single doctor agreeing that sugar is one of the worst things you can put in your body, means that if it’s sugar or artificial sweetener, the latter is yay more preferable.
I believe that sugar is the leading contributor to the obesity epidemic in the western world.
It’s a bit off-topic, but I like to sweeten things with Stevia leaves, 100% organic, no calories.
What are your thoughts on granulated stevia extract?
Not quite my taste, especially since it is very easy to grow your own plants…
Every one of them I’ve tried has either hurt my stomach or been actively repulsive, usually the former. I’ve accepted that to actually cut down on sugar I need to cut down on sugar, not replace it.
yeah my biggest problem with artificial sweeteners is always that they taste rancid (and very obviously not like sugar), not so much that they’re any more unhealthy than just eating or drinking regular sugar lol
How are you assessing their taste? I wonder how much of it isn’t food science trying to optimize for sweetness or you directly tasting the artificial sweetener rather than in a medium dissolved. Some artificial sugars are much sweeter by volume than sugar and thus a direct tasting might be overwhelming.
the only time i ever consciously have them is in drinks when i go out to eat, which is not particularly often
This is one of those pervasive myths in science because of studies which were later retracted or never reproducible because they were shittily designed in the first place (or parts of design were omitted). It took us nearly 40 years to even partially undo the ‘fats bad’ myths of shitty food science… even then you might argue we’re still not there.
Artificial sugars are significantly better than literally any added sugar. There are older fake sugars which we don’t use as much of as we learned of better alternatives and there are fake sugars which perform better in certain kinds of mediums. Sugar alcohols, for example, are readily consumed by the microbiome in your gut and thus can cause serious bloating and gas when consumed in large quantities. But maybe you shouldn’t be eating a whole bag of sugar free gummy bears in one serving anyways 😂
I don’t really have time to touch on the science, but at a high level there’s a lot of issues with study design in nutrition science and any study you see which looks at an extremely high level such as questionnaire based studies with outcomes simply cannot do anything but correlate. People often make the mistake of linking correlation to causation and we are left with statements such as ‘red meat causes cancer’ and ignore much better controlled studies in which we have more useful findings such as ‘nitrates and nitrites, commonly used to preserve red meat, cause cancer’.
Notably, I think it’s important to call out that many of these metastudies on artificial sweeteners do not directly compare artificial sweeteners to added sugar outcomes. There’s a plethora of meta studies which exist showing that with increased sugar intake comes significantly higher risks of every negative outcome they’ve ever found from artificial sweeteners and often the use-case presented in artificial sugar metastudies which are written by non-scientists is that artificial sweeteners are unhealthier than added sugar, which is only assess-able when you compare the two. If these article writers had a decent scientific background they’d realize they were jumping to a conclusion without any evidence, or they’d be able to compare to another metastudy looking at added sugar and associated mortalities. Unfortunately, they basically never do this.
I’ll leave by dropping a few meta-studies which I think summarize some of the thoughts on artificial sugars, correct some of the pervasive myths, or are otherwise avenues for additional research:
Association of Low- and No-Calorie Sweetened Beverages as a Replacement for Sugar-Sweetened Beverages With Body Weight and Cardiometabolic Risk
Association between intake of non-sugar sweeteners and health outcomes: systematic review and meta-analyses of randomised and non-randomised controlled trials and observational studies
The Impact of Artificial Sweeteners on Body Weight Control and Glucose Homeostasis
Intake of Sugar-Sweetened and Low-Calorie Sweetened Beverages and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease: A Meta-Analysis and Systematic Review
Okay I am going to try to summarize what you wrote and linked to be sure I understand:
Artificial sweeteners may have measurable health impacts, but those health impacts are overshadowed by the health impacts we are certain about with added sugars, so replacing sugar with a non sugar sweetener is at worst fine, and at best may reduce the drawbacks associated with eating added sugars. All of this being caveated with the difficulty of researching nutrition in general and a lack of as many studies as one would like directly comparing the two alternatives, and the fact that different non sugar sweeteners will impact individual people differently.
If all that is correct, then should people who are relatively healthy make the substitution of some of the sugar in their diet with non sugar sweeteners? My SO and I are still young, but we are definitely people who struggle more to keep weight on, so I think we would have to find a way to eat more other food if we were to replace sugar with something lower in calories. I guess that would probably be healthier, assuming the replacement food isn’t potato chips or something (large risk tbh), but is that a health intervention that is worthwhile over something else of similar effort? I feel like this is a question that is solidly veering into the unanswerable, but I think it could be an interesting discussion.
This is a reasonable summary of what I wrote and the existing evidence. I would also suggest giving this video a watch which has some high level takeaways about what we know in nutrition science. If you’re pressed for time, start at 25:17.
We have ample evidence that reducing added sugar results is pretty much universally good for you in the same way that doing exercise is universally good for you. You should strive to reduce added sugar as much as you can. With that being said, a comprehensive understanding of your lifestyle and risks is important to determine whether reducing added sugar is something you should even be concerned about. If you aren’t consuming a lot of added sugar it probably doesn’t matter much. If you’re generally healthy it probably doesn’t matter much.
With regards of what to replace the added sugar with to ensure you’re eating enough calories… why are you concerned about your weight? Are either of you significantly underweight (bmi <=18.5)? If not, then I would not worry about struggling to ‘keep weight on’. If you’re underweight you should be concerned about iron intake to avoid anemia and well, in general, talk to your doctor about this. If this is of actual clinical concern, then my suggestion would be to increase the amount of calories you drink. In general we have good evidence that consuming calories through a liquid medium does not stimulate hunger response to the same level as the same number of calories consumed in a non-liquid medium. You can keep calories which you drink away from added sugars by adding high calorie foods such as peanut butter for taste or by preferring fruits and vegetables over added sugars. Keep in mind that whole fruit is preferred whenever possible, rather than fruit juice or removing any of the natural fibers that the fruit comes with.
Okay I have watched the video, it was very interesting! Broadly, the diet he described matches what I thought I should be eating, though I was not aware that eggs are more broadly uncontroversial these days. Emphasis on should, as I did have a donut for breakfast time morning, not sure if walking to the store and back to get it cancels out at all.
As far as weight, I actually just went to the doctor for a checkup. By their scale, I am right at the bottom end of healthy BMI, and if I measure at home without shoes/clothes/etc then I am in the upper 17s. I have been about this weight for a while now, as the result of losing some muscle from being a fairly intensively trained high school athlete to now being someone who works out for like an hour a few times a week when I get the chance. My SO on the other hand, has a lifelong history of gastrointestinal issues with accompanying food restrictions, and since moving in together has been up in weight and more stable, but still only manages to scrape into the healthy range. I am not sure how height factors in, since I know there is some concern with BMI skewing for the especially tall and short, and I am short, and my SO is quite tall, but the trend remains. So, with that as my context, I’m not really worried about current weight so much as making a well intentioned diet change that puts either of us into an accidental caloric deficit and does make either of us underweight proper. Your point about iron intake is something I should keep in mind since we have been trying to reduce the amount of meat we eat, and maybe not increasing the corresponding dark leafy greens sufficiently.
The drinking liquids thing is oddly timely, because my SO actually just started making smoothies in place of some of the food they would normally eat at lunch, and has found that they are delicious and help to avoid some of the discomfort they find they get when eating many other foods at lunch time specifically.
I have had several people tell me that artificial sweeteners are even worse for you because they raise blood sugars and cause diabetes… Why and how, come on people…
I don’t know if I would consume artificial sweeteners if they were half as unhealthy as drinks sweetened with sugar, that’s still pretty bad ^^
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do you know what also raises blood sugar and causes diabetes? added sugar
Also there’s conflicting evidence on raising blood sugar and artificial sweeteners. One of the metastudies I linked mentions that it’s not fair to compare all added sweeteners in the same way because their mechanism of action is different. I believe we have ample evidence that some of them raise blood sugar in some individuals (genetics matters here, unsurprisingly) but the general effects that we see, even in the sugar substitutes which we have a bit of evidence for raising blood sugar is that it raises blood sugar a pretty small amount, magnitudes less than an equivalent serving of any added sugar.
Aspartame is one of the most rigorously tested food ingredients. Reviews by over 100 governmental regulatory bodies found the ingredient safe for consumption at current levels. As of 2018, several reviews of clinical trials showed that using aspartame in place of sugar reduces calorie intake and body weight in adults and children.
Wiki has loads of links, some of them must be from non rat studies i’d hope :P
It depends. I think for many things it is unnecessary since one can achieve a reasonable sweetness with small amounts of sugar too. On the other hand I don’t think thoughtful amounts would cause harm (I usually try sticking to the recommendations from the federal institute for risk assessment, e.g. regarding stevia or sucralose)
what if I want something to be really sweet!
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stevioside the sweetener from stevia is pretty cool, I have known about it for a long time, but it’s expensive to buy and not as tasty as others. Also it’s highly refined and I am not sure that it’s healthier than the other ones.
Isn’t it a little inconsistent to worry over the amount of refinement in plant sweeteners (stevia, cane, beet, etc) but not the intense process that goes into creating whole molecules of artificial sweetener? At some point you have to drop the level of refinement as an important criteria if you consider artificial products viable options.
The level of refinement is often associated with increased negative health outcomes such as comparing heavily refined plant oils (such as crisco) to those which are not (such as olive oil). It’s a valid concern to have.
yes it is, I meant to say that I don’t think it’s much better in this regard. It’s less refined though and that’s a plus. If it were available I would totally buy sweetener on stevioside basis.
Yeah, that makes sense. I have a friend who grows stevia indoors and just uses the dried, ground up leaves for sweetening her tea. That’s a cheap way to get a sweetener if you have some window space to spare.
I have done that in the past! But I don’t drink a lot of tea and the stevia leaves have a strong taste to them. Still crazy how sweet they are though.