Used as low-calorie alternative to sugar, artificial sweeteners are fast gaining popularity. Saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame potassium (acesulfame-K, or Ace-K), sucralose, neotame, and advantame additive are some of the examples of artificial sweeteners that can easily substitute sugar. People with diabetes, prediabetes or those who want to lose weight often use these low-calorie sweeteners. However, studies suggest that artificial sweeteners can play havoc with health. Having them regularly can increase cardiovascular disease risk, including heart attack. They may also increase cravings and one could end up consuming more calories leading to weight gain. Artificial sweeteners can also harm liver, affect moods and cause migraines and headaches. (Also read: Diabetes: 5 amazing breakfast ideas to control blood sugar spikes in summer)
“The dangers associated with artificial sweeteners may be modest in calories. The flavour of sugar is mimicked by these artificial chemicals, but without the calories. Like the fulfilment of a dream, don’t you think? These sweeteners, sadly, have a unique set of issues,” says Nutritionist Bhakti Arora Kapoor in her latest Instagram post.
Kapoor goes on to explain many side-effects of artificial sweeteners:
1. Gaining weight
Artificial sweeteners are frequently promoted as a means to cut calories and promote weight reduction. Studies have revealed that artificial sweeteners could, however, be a factor in weight gain since they might interfere with the body’s capacity to control calorie intake, which can result in overeating and increased cravings.
2. Disorders of mood
Neurotransmitter levels in the brain can be impacted by artificial sweeteners, which can change mood and behaviour. It has been demonstrated that they lower serotonin levels in the brain, a crucial neurotransmitter involved in controlling mood and anxiety.
3. Liver harm
Artificial sweeteners may have a role in the onset of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease since they have been associated to liver damage. Triglycerides are a form of lipid that certain sweeteners, including aspartame, can produce more of. Over time, these triglycerides can accumulate in the liver and harm it.
4. Gut health is affected
Artificial sweeteners have been found to change the ratio of beneficial to harmful microorganisms in the stomach. This is due to the fact that they alter the gut microbiota and are not metabolised similarly to natural sugars. This may result in gastrointestinal problems including gas, bloating, and even diarrhoea.
5. Disease risk is increased
Artificial sweetener use has been linked in some studies to an increased risk of developing conditions including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and metabolic syndrome. Certain sweeteners may increase insulin resistance, exacerbate inflammation, and alter gut flora, all of which may hasten the onset of these conditions.
6. Migraines and headaches
Artificial sweeteners interact with the brain’s chemistry and neurological system, changing neurotransmitter levels and blood flow, which can result in headaches and migraines.