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5 Things You Must Know About Artificial Sweeteners

Who hasn’t heard of Dr. Mehmet Oz, the cardiologist with his own TV show promoting healthful ways of living? He’s not afraid to address controversial issues, and this time he’s taken on artificial sweeteners on his website, DoctorOz.com. Specifically, Dr. Oz is talking about the down sides of aspartame, sucralose, saccharin and acesulfame potassium, aka, respectively, Equal and Nutrasweet; Splenda; Sweet-N Low; and Sunett and Sweet One.

Sweeteners

Pointing out that artificial sweeteners hide in nearly 6,000 products under the guise of replacing calories and sugar, Dr. Oz explains five things you may not know about the sweeteners’ risks. They are:

1. Even though you’re probably using them to prevent weight gain, they could do exactly the opposite. This is because the chemicals in the sweeteners fool your brain into thinking your body is going to get something sweet for fuel. When that fuel doesn’t arrive it confuses you’re the satiety center in your brain, and you may feel hungrier, causing you to eat more — and possibly gain weight.

2. They can be addictive. Since they’re much sweeter than regular sugar, you can build up tolerance to sweetness, which may cause you to want more and more and more of it.

3. They not only may cause you to feel abnormal urges to urinate, but some artificial sweeteners don’t go well with your gastrointestinal system, leading you to feel bloated or full of gas, cramps and diarrhea.

4. New research shows they cause your pancreas to spike insulin, which can lead to diabetes — and put on more weight, to boot. The fact is a growing body of evidence shows artificial sweeteners raise your risk for both obesity and Type 2 diabetes. They also may damage your vascular function and cause cellular changes that may be important during the onset of diabetes.

5. They’ve been shown to increase the risk of some cancers in lab animals. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says no evidence exists that this is also true in humans, recent reports make a link through excess weight you may be carrying.

Artificial sweeteners have also been linked to a number of other adverse effects. For example, the amino acids in aspartame attack your cells, even crossing the blood-brain barrier to attack your brain cells, creating toxic cellular overstimulation (excitotoxicity), and sucralose (sold under the brand name Splenda) has been linked to:

  • Decreased red blood cells, a sign of anemia, at levels above 1,500 milligrams per kilo per day
  • Increased male infertility by interfering with sperm production and vitality, as well as brain lesions at higher doses
  • Kidney enlargement and calcification
  • Significantly increased risk for miscarriage (in rabbits, spontaneous abortions affected nearly half the rabbit population given sucralose, compared to zero aborted pregnancies in the control group)
  • Significantly increased death rate (a 23 percent death rate in rabbits, compared to a 6 percent in the control group

What all this tells us is, if you're still holding out hope that science will eventually prove artificial sweeteners to be beneficial, or at the very least harmless, you're likely to be disappointed.

Again and again, research shows no-calorie sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose cause the same problems as excess sugar, and then some. For more information, see "Sugar Substitutes — What's Safe and What's Not."

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