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4 horrifying things that artificial sweeteners do to your body
Reading this may make you reevaluate what you put in your body. - photo by Wendy Jessen
Diet drinks, diet foods and sugar free edibles are everywhere. Most people have probably consumed at least one of these at some time in their life. It's lower calorie and approved by the FDA, so it has to be good for you and safe, right?

Well, maybe not.

Artificial sweeteners, namely Saccharin, Aspartame, Acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), Sucralose, Neotame, Advantame, Steviol glycosides and Luo Han Guo fruit extracts, are non-nutritive sweeteners because they add few to zero calories to food. They are also much sweeter than sugar.

Some studies indicate horrifying side effects to partaking of artificial sweeteners:

Weight gain

While many people use artificial sweetener for the benefit of lower caloric intake in hopes of maintaining or losing weight, the opposite may actually be true. One study collected data from women and men for seven to eight years, showing that obesity and weight gain were significantly higher in those who drank diet drinks than those who didn't drink them. Similar research, but with teenagers, showed increased body mass index and body fat percentages after only two years.

Some suggest the weight gain may be because of an increased sweet tooth which contributes to eating more sugary foods or, because of the less calories, people may then think they can overeat later.

Metabolism issues explains that non-caloric artificial sweeteners (NAS) alter "...microbial metabolic pathways that are linked to host susceptibility to metabolic disease, and demonstrate similar NAS-induced dysbiosis and glucose intolerance in healthy human subjects." Medical Daily explains metabolic syndrome which is multiple conditions-- "increased blood pressure, a high blood sugar level, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels that occur together, and increase your risk of stroke, heart disease, and other diseases." Consuming artificial sweeteners may double your risk of metabolic syndrome.

Hypertension and cardiovascular disease

Interestingly, people may think avoiding sugar and using diet drinks instead would have benefits extending to heart health. But it doesn't. In fact, according to Medical Daily, both those who consumed artificially sweetened beverages and those who drank regular sugar-sweetened beverages were both at elevated risk for coronary heart disease, hypertension and other vascular events. So while the artificially sweetened drinks do harm, the sugary drinks do similar harm.

Type 2 diabetes

The American Diabetes Association in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis found "At least daily consumption of diet soda was associated with a ... 67% greater relative risk of incident type 2 diabetes compared with nonconsumption." The key here is "nonconsumption", because the increased risk for type 2 diabetes was also present for those who drank sugar-sweetened drinks.

Other side effects

Specifically pertaining to aspartame ingestion, it was reported to the FDA reactions of acute, chronic and potential toxicity effects of aspartame. Adverse effects included:

  • vision problems
  • impaired hearing
  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • confusion, memory loss
  • convulsions
  • severe depression
  • heart palpitations
  • chest pain
  • diarrhea
  • abdominal pain
  • menstrual changes
  • urinary problems
  • edema
While these results may be controversial, you may prefer to err on the side of caution and avoid artificially and sugar-sweetened drinks altogether, or only consume sparingly. Alternative better options may be drinking water or fruit-infused water and eating naturally sweet fruit when the craving for sweets arises. Not only is fruit much better for you, but there are other health benefits of eating fruit, which has increased fiber and nutrients.

Have you had adverse side effects from artificial sweeteners? How about from sugary drinks?
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