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Surprising Science

There’s No Such Thing as a ‘Healthy Sweetener’

People want to have their cake and eat it, too. But the truth is even if that cake is full of artificial sweeteners, it's still not good for you.

After the Christmas food coma subsides, you may start to put some thought into your resolution for the new year. Most people like to make goals to diet and exercise, shifting their consumption from soda to diet colas, because it’s “healthier.” But research may have some think twice about cutting back on the sugar and ditching the artificial sweeteners as well.

Time’s Markham Heid sat down with Dr. Robert Lustig, a Pediatric Endocrinologist at the University of California, asking, if there was such a thing as a healthy sweetener. Lustig said, no. Honey, sugar, artificial sweeteners—it doesn’t matter—they’re all bad for you.

“It’s all sucrose, and your body metabolizes it the same way.”

He says people should limit their intake to about six to nine teaspoons. Your liver can process about that much without issue in a day, but when people start to overindulge over long periods of time, issues with insulin response begin to set in. Heart disease, diabetes, and fatty livers become common diagnoses in the doctor’s office.

For those that think they’ve beat the system by drinking diet colas and using artificial, non-caloric sweeteners, some studies that claim there are other health issues to consider. The sweet taste of a sugar-substitute on your taste buds may be enough to enact an insulin response. Some data even suggests that these the microbes in your gut change their composition when introduced to artificial compounds, and leads to issues in breaking down regular sugar.

One study showed a correlation between drinking diet beverages and more food consumption. The researchers wrote:

“Overweight and obese adults drink more diet beverages than healthy-weight adults and consume significantly more solid-food calories and a comparable total calories than overweight and obese adults who drink [sugar-sweetened beverages].”

Correlation doesn’t mean causation, though. There are many studies on the issue, but not enough long-term data to say with certainty that artificial sweeteners are bad for you. The saying, “If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” comes to mind, and when it comes to health, it’s better to avoid taking shortcuts to bettering yourself.

Read more at Time

Photo Credit:Jeanny/Flickr


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