Except when it’s not. Artificial sweeteners have been shrouded in controversy ever since saccharin, the first no-cal sweetener, was discovered back in 1878. Even then, public health advocates questioned whether these lab-created sweeteners were truly safe; saccharin, after all, was discovered by a chemist working with coal tar, a carcinogenic material.
Nearly 150 years—and an infinite number of conflicting studies—later, the issue still isn’t settled. The European Food Safety Administration, after an exhaustive review of the literature on aspartame, declared at the end of 2013 that the sweetener is safe at current exposure levels and doesn’t cause cancer. The advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest, meanwhile, decried that decision as a total “whitewash.”
So, to sweeten or not to sweeten? If your goal is to lose weight, these artificial sugars can help you drop calories. But like most inventions of the chemical and food industries, artificial sweeteners aren’t living up to their promises. Cancer concerns aside, researchers are finding new reasons that these no-cal taste enhancers are posing undue health risks without fulfilling the promise of helping you lose weight. Here are seven…
#1: They trick your taste buds.
Artificial sweeteners, even natural ones like stevia, which comes from an herb, are hundreds, sometimes thousands, of times sweeter than sugar, says Anne Alexander, editor of Prevention magazine and author of the new book, The Sugar Smart Diet. Sucralose, sold under the brand name Splenda, is 600 times sweeter than table sugar, and neotame, an emerging alternative to aspartame, is 7,000 times sweeter. Stevia is 200 to 300 times sweeter than table sugar. “And evidence suggests that exposing your taste buds to these high-intensity sweeteners makes them less receptive to natural sources of sweetness such as fruit,” says Alexander. When your taste buds get dulled, you’re more likely to seek out sweeter and sweeter foods….