For the past 10 years, I have been a huge fan of artificially sweetened drinks; Diet Pepsi, Diet Dr Pepper, Diet Sunkist, you name it. Basically, if they contained zero calories and were fizzy, we were BFFs.
These humdingers were my ticket to drinking as many carbonated beverages as I wanted without gaining weight.
Even as more and more research emerged linking health issues to diet drinks, I still wasn’t sold. I mean c’mon, there always seemed to be some food out there getting a bad rap one day and then considered a super food the next.
Also, I didn’t fall for the hype where consuming artificially sweetened beverages could lead to weight gain. After all, I can’t recall gaining weight once I banned regular soft drinks from my diet.
But then again, I don’t remember ever losing any weight either.
So if you’re a diet sodaholic, or know someone who is, take a peek at my reasons for ditching the diet drinks.
1) Artificial Sweeteners Don’t Help Me Lose Weight
Granted, as I said above, I don’t believe I ever gained weight due to diet sodas. Yet, looking back over the past decade, my cravings for sweets and desserts definitely became more obvious.
I’m not claiming I didn’t have a sweet tooth prior to my diet soda addiction. Big girl right here has always loved a doughnut. With that being said, once my affair with diet sodas began, looking back, it seemed as though I seriously couldn’t hold myself back from anything sugary, especially a handsome looking baked good.
Over the last few years, maybe you’ve heard or read about artificial sweeteners causing weight gain. Study after study is finding the sugary taste of artificial sweeteners triggers hunger. That brought up my question, “Why doesn’t the body react the same way to regular ole sugar?”
Here’s the scoop. Everyone knows real sugar has calories, right? Dr. Mercola has analyzed the research currently out there, and concluded that when you consume the real thing, your body can “accurately determine that it has received enough calories, thereby activating satiety signaling. Without the calories, your appetite is activated by the sweet taste, but as your body keeps waiting for the calories to come, sensations of hunger remain.”
Basically, we’re teasing our bodies. When we eat sugar, the feel-good chemical, dopamine is released. Artificial sweeteners don’t achieve the same affect, but our bodies still recognize that sweet taste. The brain expects that release of dopamine to come along, but when nothing happens, it lets us know it wants something that will. Enter, the sugar craving.
Additionally, the extremely popular artificial sweetener, aspartame, is made up of phenylalanine, aspartic acid and methol. The first two chemicals mentioned are amino acids, which are known to set off the hormones, insulin and leptin. These hormones are not only connected with storing fat and feeling full, they’re also involved with managing your metabolism.
When our insulin and leptin levels get out of whack, we’re at a much greater risk for metabolic syndrome, diabetes and obesity. Meaning, when we’re putting something in our bodies that screws around with our insulin and leptin hormones, it goes beyond simply gaining a few pounds. Over time, we are quite possibly putting our health in jeopardy.
2) Artificial Sweeteners May Be Harming Our Bodies
I started having doubts about the fake stuff a couple months back when I wrote a series of posts on toxic chemicals.
Talk about a kick to the crotch.
I was appalled at all the harmful crap that went into, not only our food, but everyday items all of us find around our homes.
Being the naive person I often am, I always trusted that the government agencies looked out for our best interests. Simple-minded Sally over here just assumed one of their main purposes was to protect our health and well-being.
Nevertheless, let me give you a couple primo examples of how that’s not necessarily true.
Roundup, the EPA and FDA-approved herbicide, is sprayed on the majority of food available to us, yet has been linked to chronic diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, as well as cancer!
So if you’re stunned that THAT cancer-causing crap is approved, let me share something else these agencies are allowing us to consume.
I’m sure you’re all familiar of the artificial sweetener, aspartame. It’s found in thousands of products including diet sodas, most gums, many chewable vitamins, and over the counter medications such as children’s Tylenol. (For a more detailed list of products containing aspartame, click here.)
Above, I mentioned aspartame being made up of aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol.
Sooooo…wanna know what methanol breaks down into once it’s consumed?
Yep, the same formaldehyde used in embalming fluid to preserve dead bodies.
Vomit. In. My. Mouth.
Not only is formaldehyde considered a carcinogen, meaning it can cause cancer, Dr. Mercola states it also “causes retinal damage, interferes with DNA replication and causes birth defects.”
Suckily enough, it doesn’t end there.
Professor of neurosurgery at the Medical University of Mississippi, Dr. Russell L. Blaylock, published a book revealing just how bad aspartic acid (which makes up 40% of aspartame) can be when consumed in large amounts.
Blaylock had close to 500 scientific references backing up his findings that show aspartic acid is “causing serious chronic neurological disorders and a myriad of other acute symptoms.”
Specifically, the effects of aspartic acid are believed to contribute to:
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Alzheimer’s disease
And that’s not even the whole list.
Doesn’t that put you in the mood for an ice cold glass of toxic chemicals, er, I mean, Diet Coke?
3) Artificial Sweeteners are Linked to Diabetes
The bacteria in our gut has received quite the press in recent years. From digestion, to weight, to our tickers, research shows it plays a big role in our health.
Well, studies are now finding that fake sugars tend to mess around with bacteria in the gut. Since our bodies don’t digest artificial sweeteners, it makes a beeline for the intestines and bothers the gazillions of bacteria that call our gut their home.
One study found Splenda (aka sucralose) shrank the bacteria population by 49.8% in only 12 weeks!
According to Dr. David Perlmutter, “these changes in the gut bacteria relate to metabolic changes that pave the way for diabetes.”
Nature published an article discussing a study on people who normally didn’t consume artificial sweeteners. Scientists examined how artificial sweeteners affected the gut bacteria among other things. They found the participants bacteria had been altered to a level already known to up your chances of developing metabolic syndrome.
A Time Magazine article mentioned the same study, revealing that after only four days of the seven day study, over “half of the people showed higher blood glucose levels.”
And when your blood glucose levels are consistently high, that’s no bueno. Left untreated, it could very well lead to diabetes later on down the line.
Now, here’s something interesting. The Americian Diabetes Association actually encourages diabetics to use artificial sweeteners. They state, “Foods and drinks that use artificial sweeteners are another option that may help curb your cravings for something sweet.”
But the many studies conducted over the last couple decades have found that diabetics should in fact break ties with artificial sweeteners.
The site, Diabetes Meal Plans says, “instead of [aspartame] being ‘safe’ for blood sugar, in many cases blood glucose levels increase when you consume artificial sweeteners.”
Also, a diabetics specialist researching aspartame found that it caused “poorer diabetic control in diabetics on insulin or oral drugs,” as well as provoking “diabetic complications such as retinopathy, cataracts, neuropathy and gastroparesis.”
Ready for a little good news?
Well, maybe not “good” good, but better compared to what you’ve been reading thus far.
Scientists deduced that not everybody’s gut responds negatively to artificial sweeteners. They don’t really know why that’s the case though.
But despite that, you can bet your sweet butt I’m not interested in finding out if I’m one of those people.
4) Artificial Sweeteners are Known to Intensify Symptoms of Depression
Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, Dr. Ralph Walton conducted a study, where researchers focused on the effects of aspartame, and found that, “the frequency and severity of depression, headache, nervousness, difficulty in remembering, insomnia, fatigue and malaise were striking among patients with a history of depression after ingesting aspartame, compared to the placebo.”
Researchers also observed some of these effects in non depressed people, however, their symptoms seemed to be less extreme.
Dr. Walton goes on to say, “The decrease of serotonin by aspartame administration has considerable relevance to depression and other psychological problems.”
You see, aspartame is notorious for lowering the serotonin in our brains. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter impacting many body functions such as appetite, sleep, learning, and wait for it…our mood! So if your serotonin levels start heading for the toity, it makes sense that your frame of mind would take a dip as well.
All I can say is my serotonin levels must suck because I’ve battled with depression off and on for over ten years now. I first started feeling symptoms the summer of 2005, shortly after graduating from college. I always figured the job insecurity of being a dancer triggered it.
But get this. It also happened to be right around the time I started drinking diet sodas. I had discovered that Diet Cherry Dr Pepper’s taste wasn’t nearly as diet-y as some of the other ones.
And from then on, I was hooked.
Now, I’m not saying it wasn’t merely a coincidence, I just thought I’d throw in that perplexing little factoid.
5) Diet Drinks Dehydrate Me
Not in the way one would normally think (most people tend to think of caffeine as a diuretic), but if I had the choice between water or my Diet Dr Pepper, chances are, I’d reach for the latter.
Now, since I’m steering clear of diet drinks, and I don’t plan to replace them with regular soft drinks or juices (ok, maybe in a few days when the non-diet novelty wears off), it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out my water intake will increase!
When you’re well hydrated, other than peeing every 90 seconds, experts say you have more energy and focus, your heart doesn’t have to work as hard, you’ll lower your risk for some cancers, and you’re less likely to turn into Grumpy McGrumperton.
Once my husband reads that last benefit, I bet he’ll be force-feeding me water from here on out.
Even though there’s many studies out there contradicting the poopy affects of artificial sweeteners, at the end of the day, these puppies are still man-made chemicals. Of course, advocates for artificial sweeteners discount the studies that have found problems with the sweet imposter. They claim the studies weren’t long enough, big enough, or whatever.
The fact of the matter is, I don’t give a rats anus.
For me, there’s more than enough research out there stating artificial sweeteners are not to be trusted.
Think of it this way. There are quite a few chemicals, featured in products still on the market, proven to be linked to cancer (e.g. the herbicide I mentioned earlier, Roundup, plastic containers, nonstick coatings, etc.).
So in this instance, I go with the whole “presumed guilty until proven innocent” way of thinking.