Exposing the Sweet Lies Behind Artificial Sweeteners | Teen Ink

Exposing the Sweet Lies Behind Artificial Sweeteners

August 31, 2021
By kateyin BRONZE, Beijing, Other
kateyin BRONZE, Beijing, Other
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

Amid the society where everyone is obsessed with health, you are continually searching for ways to cut calories. When asked what drink to get, you pick diet coke without hesitation; when baking pastries, you substitute sugar with 0 calories artificial sweeteners. Have you ever been in this situation before? But are artificial sweeteners actually healthy?
Before we answer this question, what are artificial sweeteners? They are synthetic sugar substitutes that are often deemed healthy because they are not digested by our body and don’t raise insulin levels. Our body does not digest nor absorb these sweeteners, resulting in the low calories artificial sweeteners contain. When we consume sugar, our body produces insulin. If we continually consume high amounts of sugar, we get repeated insulin spikes. Over time, our insulin receptors will get worn out, resulting in high blood glucose levels and other health problems. But since artificial sweeteners are not recognized as sugar, the body does not produce insulin in response.
Just like what Anahad O’Connor says in his article, “Debate over the impact of artificial sweeteners on health has raged for decades,” do the benefits of artificial sweeteners really outweigh their drawbacks?
Firstly, they may be beneficial for diabetic patients. Since artificial sweeteners aren’t carbohydrates, they generally don’t raise blood glucose levels; it grants diabetic patients the freedom to consume sugary products without worrying about getting hyperglycemia. Due to them not contributing to the human metabolism system, artificial sweeteners can also help people lose weight by replacing higher calorie sugar-sweetened foods. These sweeteners also don’t contribute to tooth decay and cavities. When sugar is introduced into the oral cavity, it works with bacteria to release acids that can weaken tooth enamel and lead to cavities. But artificial sweeteners provide no nutrients for bacteria to metabolize upon, inhibiting bacteria’s growth in oral cavities. Finally, artificial sweeteners also have economic benefits over sugar. Since artificial sweeteners are usually 100 times sweeter than sugar, less is required to sweeten a product, resulting in significant cost savings.
However, the use of artificial sweeteners is not without risk. For instance, there are myths stating that artificial sweeteners may cause cancer. Early studies showed that artificial sweeteners caused bladder cancer in laboratory animals. However, results from subsequent studies by the American Cancer Society in 2016 provided no clear evidence of an association between cancer and sweeteners. Many also claim that artificial sweeteners may not aid weight loss and could actually lead to weight gain. Since they contain practically no calories, people tend to over-compensate, utilizing these sweeteners as a license to consume everything they wish, ultimately consuming more food. Additionally, an even scarier facet of artificial sweeteners is their potential impact on the gut microbiome. Jothan Suez’s research in 2014 demonstrated that artificial sweeteners could impact the gut microbiome, resulting in glucose intolerance and metabolic imbalances that lead to obesity and chronic disease.
The controversies surrounding artificial sweeteners persist; there isn’t a clear “yes” or “no” to the question. They can be great partners in your weight-loss journey. You can stand and laugh as they fool your tongue and yet not hurt your tummy. They pose no threat to our health if consumed in moderation. Don’t be misguided by the manufacturers’ sweet lies.

The author's comments:

Despite my love for food, I can’t help caring about the number on the scale as a teenage ballerina. For a while, I felt so powerless and frustrated to find that my self-worth is wrapped around my weight and body image. I then started researching topics in the nutrition and body positivity. Now I have managed to change my mindset, and I want to share what I’ve learned with those who’re experiencing similar frustration.

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