You have probably heard that artificial sweeteners are harmful for you. And you’ve probably heard that sugar is bad for you too. There is no need to use either one, but what do you do when you like your sweet taste and don’t feel like giving it all up? Let’s find out.
The first problem is that gurus often classify artificial sweeteners into one category, but that doesn’t give us a clear picture of things. It is like speaking of carbs, proteins, and fats as the same thing. There are different classes of artificial sweeteners and they differ quite a bit.
So the truth is that there is genuinely not that much scientific evidence of artificial sweeteners being “poisons.” Most of these studies have not been replicated and most of them have studied aspartame and other synthetic sweeteners. One clear finding is that using big amounts (meaning a couple of coke lights a day for an example) of artificial sweeteners raises cancer risk in the long run.
But there is maybe even a more important finding. Almost all the sweeteners affect the microbiome of the human gut. This can lead to inflammation, insulin resistance, and weight gain. The exception here is that many sugar alcohols or polyols may improve microbiota. This is quite a remarkable finding, but of course, there are not enough studies to 100% suggest anything. Sugar alcohols, on the other hand, can cause bloating, diarrhea, and other IBS symptoms. Sugar alcohols are maltitol, sorbitol, xylitol, erythritol, and isomalt.
Based on this scientific data that we have, we can suggest some core principles:
- Don’t use them if you don’t need to
- If you use them, small amounts probably won’t do you any harm
- Whenever possible, choose polyols/sugar alcohols as your sweeteners, but beware of the intestinal side effects