Pop Quiz! What do diet soda and sugar-free gummy worms have in common? See if you discover the answer after reading this post!

You may have noticed items labeled “diet” or “sugar-free” while buying groceries at the supermarket. These items are labeled “diet” or “sugar-free” because they are made with artificial sweeteners. These items sound healthier but are they really better for your body? Let’s find out.

What is an Artificial Sweetener?

An artificial sweetener is sugar substitute; this means that it is used in place of common table sugar. Artificial sweeteners provide the sweet taste that people love, without the calories. It is called an “artificial” sweetener because it is generally made with chemical and non-natural compounds. Artificial sweeteners are commonly used by people trying to lose weight because they provide no additional calorie gain and by people with diabetes because they do not increase their blood sugar levels. You might be consuming artificial sweeteners without even knowing it – they are commonly found in processed food items like candy and drinks.

In the United States, there are only seven artificial sweeteners that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration; they are stevia, aspartame, sucralose, neotame, acesulfame potassium, saccharin, and advantame. If these names seem like a bunch of nonsense words to you, that’s Ok – you might be more familiar with their common names like SugarTwin, Sweet’N, Low Equal, NutraSweet, or Splenda.

Why Should Artificial Sweeteners Be Avoided?

Although there are no definite conclusions about the harm of artificial sweeteners, they have been linked to a series of health problems that can be a cause for concern.

  • Cancer? The chemicals used to produce artificial sweeteners are carcinogenic which means that they have the potential to cause cancer.
  • Weight Gain? Although artificial sweeteners have been used to decrease caloric intake, they can increase an individual’s desire for sweets.
  • Raised Insulin Levels? Artificial sweeteners are thought to not increase blood sugar levels but contrary to popular thought, some research has shown that they can actually increase insulin levels.
  • Worsen Mental Health? Consuming certain artificial sweeteners (like aspartame) have been associated with decreased levels of serotonin; serotonin is an important contributor to feeling well and happy.
  • Confused Body? Artificial Sweeteners can interfere with how your body normally responds to carbohydrates and your body’s understanding of how many calories are being consumed, leaving your body unable to provide the appropriate response.

So next time, before you decide to consume an item with an artificial sweetener, take a second to think about the downfalls of artificial sweeteners before putting them in your body. Try to always make an informed decision!