Are Artificial Sweeteners Bad For You? (video)

They’re sugar free with little to no calories but not for everybody

They’re sugar free with little to no calories but not for everybody

Samantha Harris, MD, an endocrinologist at the Scripps Clinic Center for Weight Management, discusses the pros and cons of artificial sweeteners, which are sugar substitutes that contain little or no calories. Can they help you lose weight? Can they give you headaches?

Video transcript

What are artificial sweeteners?

They are essentially additives type products that are sweet in nature, but do not have sugar or calories in them. They are often used as substitutes for high sugar drinks for other fruit products.

Artificial sweeteners come in a variety of brands and types. They do taste differently. Some of them are bitter and are often mixed with other sweeteners to make them taste better for people.

Can they help with weight loss?

It’s really hard to study artificial sweeteners and know if they lead to weight loss. In general, data suggests that it might be helpful in lowering calories and sugar intake if you’re switching from high sugar foods to foods that are sweetened with artificial sweeteners because they’re lower in calories and sugar. However, there are no great long-term studies that show that artificial sweeteners actually help people lose weight.

In general, they are not appetite suppressants and don’t usually affect your other food choices.

Are they good for you?

There’s no data that suggests that they’re good for you. The question is: Are they bad for you or are they neutral?

My opinion is that they’re probably better than high sugar drinks. If you’re replacing a diet soda instead of a regular soda, there are potentially health benefits because the regular soda has so much sugar and calories in it. But if you’re somebody who’s already drinking water or herbal tea, I don’t think switching to any type of diet beverage offers any benefit.

What do you recommend?

I usually recommend people who are currently consuming foods that are high in sugar, especially juice or soda, try to switch to artificially sweetened soda or juice if they do not want to switch to completely unsweetened beverages, which is water, black coffee or herbal tea. For ideal health, they would also have to limit their consumption or eating of diet products as well.

If somebody is starting out by drinking two liters per day of diet soda, and there are lot of people who do that, I recommend trying to limit that to one liter a day for a few weeks or a few months. Eventually, they can wean themselves down.

Can artificial sweeteners give you headaches?

Artificial sweeteners can worsen headaches. They might be related to seizures and they may affect your mood though. I usually recommend limiting them in people who suffer from migraine or mood disorders or who have a history of seizure disorders.

I don’t think anyone can say with 100 percent certainty that artificial sweeteners are bad for you or that they’re good for you. I don’t think any data shows they’re good for you. They might be bad for you, but I believe they are better than full sugar options.

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