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Are All Artificial Sweeteners Bad For You?

Should All Artificial Sweeteners Be Avoided?
(Which Artificial Sweetener is the Best One?)

More and more people have come to realize what Dr. Atkins and bodybuilders have known for 6 decades-

(you're going to hear that a lot on this website)

Very few people listened though, Atkins was declared a communist witch/Nazi sympathizer (joke) and bodybuilders are always dismissed as meatheads. Turns out they were right however.

If you are hearing this for the first time or would like a quick refresh take a looky here–

 

Sugar-cartoonAvoiding sugar isn’t just for diabetics; it’s for anyone that doesn’t want to put on needless weight (as well as avoiding a host of problems sugar creates). You can EAT A LOT more food if you just forgo sugar.

Thankfully, of as 2013, there are A LOT of options and substitutes for sugar that are just as sweet and some, in my opinion, that taste are just as good. Unlike 10-15 years ago, you can “Have Your Sugar Sweet and Eat it Too.” Unless you are specifically building muscle, training for a strength or endurance sport or one of the rare humans that does not do well on low-carbohydrate diet- I see virtually no reason that you need to put sugar in your mouth.

Most people with a brain not deny this- but the main concern is the possible side-effects from these artificial sweeteners.

Unfortunately though, most people don’t know the difference between them. Poor publicity in the past, has placed a horrible cloud over most of these products, with many self proclaimed health experts labeling them as carcinogenic. There’s always more science can teach us, and I’m sure there will be more pieces to this puzzle identified in the coming years.

However for now, the current level of research suggests that all of these sugar substitutes are safe for consumption in low doses.

Even the American Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health admits-

"Before approving these sweeteners, the FDA reviewed more than 100 safety studies that were conducted on each sweetener, including studies to assess cancer risk. The results of these studies showed no evidence that these sweeteners cause cancer or pose any other threat to human health."

Still, there is evidence that these compounds have safety concerns and Good Looking Kangaroo and I examined the latest research and discussed all that we already knew from being professionals in the fitness and nutrition industry.

It’s time to once-and-for-all tell you which ones are TOTALLY SAFE and which ones are less safe.

Aspartame (Artificial, No Effect on Blood Sugar)

equal_2What’s it in?

Aspartame probably the most common sweetener in North America.

It is the sweetener in most beverages (diet soda), powdered drink mixes (crystal light), gum/cough drops and the cheapest of sugar-free foods. Aspartame is in Nutrasweet and Equal, the ‘blue packet'

 

What’s the Verdict?

Only consume it in small amounts.

It appears safer than the “natural sugar is good for you,” nut-jobs would lead you to believe. The clinical research below says so and there is no direct evidence that it is neurotoxic or causes cancer if you drink enough water and don’t drink 21+ cans of the soda (the toxic equivalent) a day. At the same, I acknowledge that the FDA calls sugar and cigarettes “safe” too.

When possible, definitely get Stevia or Splenda-based alternatives instead.

My Grandma drank 4 liters of Diet Pepsi daily for about 35 years.

She died.

At age 101.

I’m pretty sure how much water you drink and genetics (metabolism) plays a significant role in how efficiently your body can filter aspartame out.

After about 2 years of having aspartame at most of my meals (that’s way too much), I took about a month and consumed NO ASPARTAME to see if I felt any different, if my hair would [naturally] shed less and my skin looked better. Nothing happened.

That is my experience; you’ll see a tremendous amount of HATE for aspartame out there. I’m not saying it’s completely fine- avoid it when you can.

Further Thoughts on Aspartame

Diet-Mountain-Dew--CanAspartame is 200 times sweeter than sugar. Metabolically speaking, Aspartame is NOT calorie free. In fact 1 gram of aspartame produces 4 calories of energy. But because it is so sweet, only very small amounts of it are required to sweeten food, meaning a significant reduction in calories when compared to using sugar to sweeten. Aspartame has been extensively researched, with the bulk of this research suggesting it is safe for human consumption.

The FDA suggests that an intake of up to 50mg/kg of aspartame per day is safe. Based upon this level, and considering that aspartame is most widely consumed through diet sodas, it would take a 75kg (160lb.) adult over 21 cans of diet soda (180mg aspartame per can) in one day before toxicity concerns would be raised. That’s a lot of soda, however, sadly there are some people out there who do surpass this level of intake of soda on a daily basis. These people are most likely at some level of risk associated by the amount of aspartame being consumed.

If you consume a lot of diet soda, try to consume an equal amount of water.

Aspartame is not my favorite sugar substitute, purely because it can’t really be used in cooking and doesn’t tend to blend well in foods compared to other sugar substitutes. However from a safety stand point, I don’t have grave concerns regarding this sugar substitute if the only intake of aspartame is from consuming the odd can of diet soda here and there. 

Sucralose/Splenda

(Artificial; Made From Sugar, No Effect on Blood Sugar)

What’s it in?splenda

Sucralose is in most of the sugar-free or ‘no sugar added’ baked goods. It’s also in most of the non-carbonated diet/sweetened beverages- the Starbucks Doubleshot line, Tropicana Light, Propel Zero Fitness Water, G2 (Gatorade). It is also generally the sweetener used to make protein powders taste sweeter. This is guy is in the ‘yellow’ packet.

It’s also made it into some diet sodas- Pepsi NEXT, Pepsi ONE, Diet Rite

Although it’s rumored that everyone’s favorite soda, Diet Mountain Dew, contains Splenda instead of Aspartame- it’s not actually the case. It contains both according to the Official Site for PepsiCO.

Note that a lot of foods and “no sugar added” beverages, ice-cream, yogurt, low-sugar fitness drinks contain BOTH sugar and sucralose.

Dr. Mercola, who I’m sure will tell you that Splenda kills and to avoid it at all costs, has an excellent list on his website.

What’s the Verdict?

Like aspartame, only consume it in small amounts.

The research below suggests it’s probably slightly more healthful than aspartame and it tastes better.

At the same time, aspartame has been around for years and years is definitely okay in small amounts.

Further Thoughts on Sucralosetorani_sugar free_syrup

Sucralose is 600 times sweeter than sugar. That’s three times sweeter then aspartame is! This is seriously sweet stuff!

The clear advantage that sucralose has over many of its competitor sugar substitutes is that it is stable at high temperatures, meaning it can be used for cooking purposes. Again, many people think sucralose is “calorie free”, however it does contain calories. When consumed though, the majority of sucralose is not broken down or absorbed. Like aspartame, sucralose has extensive research and more research behind it to support the safety of its use. Again, it has been found to be safe to be consumed in low doses, however, like most sugar substitutes.

Stevia Extract

(100% Natural & Amazing, No Effect on Blood Sugar)

What’s it in?

Stevia is currently classified and is available a dietary supplement. You’ll find it in the ‘green’ packs of Truvia, Purevia and Stevia in the Raw. Those are all good options but the most healthful option is Stevia EXTRACT, it has NO SUGAR at all.

Stevia only recently got approved for commercial use and you can find it in certain drinks such as Zevia (Stevia Soda), Sprite Green and Sobe Lifewater. It’s in certain protein powders. It hasn’t made it to that many solid foods because it’s significant more expensive than aspartame and corporation don’t want to waste their money on your health.

What’s the Verdict?

This is the stuff you want to learn to love. Eat it, drink it and stick up your nose (just kidding).

It is 100% natural and 100% healthy.

In fact, it’s actually good for you.

Do whatever you can to fall in love with it. Sample different brands of Stevia extract; remember a little- goes a LONG way. It’s quite sweet.

Further Thoughts on Stevia

Although it’s put in the artificial sweetener category, in actual fact- it’s not artificial at all.

Stevia is a natural sweetener as it is derived from the leaves of a plant called Stevia rebaudiana. The leaves on this plant are sweet, about 300 times sweeter than sugar.

The other reason why I love this stuff so much is that not only has it been scientifically investigated to be safe for consumption, but it also offers some health benefits as well.

A study completed in 2009 showed that Stevia may also offer anti-hyperglycemic, anti-hypertensive, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, anti-diarrhea, diuretic, and noninflammatory actions. Perhaps is the most telling fact about it’s safety is- Stevia has been used in Japan for 4 decades. In fact, Stevia is used MORE OFTEN than sugar in Japanese cooking, it’s even in their Diet Coke and 40% of Japan’s sweets.Kal Stevia

This stuff is so safe, in 2008, FDA gave up trying to pretend that the long-term side are “unknown” and it is an “unsafe food” to keep it off the market and from competing with aspartame, sucralose and their gigantic corporations. As of 2013, Stevia remains a dietary supplement, unregulated by the FDA.

Remember- get the EXTRACT.

The "regular" Stevia such as Truvia, Purevia and Stevia in the Raw is a combination of Stevia and some sort of filler. The filler is usually dextrose, also known as- SUGAR. Sometimes it's "inulin," which is a sweet-tasting fiber.

Out of every sugar substitute, Stevia EXTRACT is BY FAR the best option available.

Here are two Stevia Extract products that have used-

 

Neotame (Artificial, No Effect on Blood Sugar)

What’s it in?Kool-Aid box

Neotame finds it way into cheap, non-nutritious processed foods such as baked goods, gum, “fruit” juices and dessert toppings since it is so cheap to produce and so little is needed to make things super sweet.

We were unable to confirm any specific products that contain Neotame, however.

What’s the Verdict?

Obviously, I’m not against artificial sweeteners but- DON’T TOUCH THIS ONE.

Further Thoughts on Neotame

Neotane is made from aspartame. It's like "aspartame extract," so you can probably see where we’re going to go with this one.

Good Looking Kangaroo finds this stuff horrible to eat and sickly sweet. This is probably because it is 7000-13000 times sweeter than sugar and likely mess up your sense of [sweet] taste. This is sugar aspartame on steroids!!! Or crack.

Saccharin (Artificial, No Effect on Blood Sugar)sweet-n-low

What’s it in?

Saccharin is the sweeteners in Sweet n’ Low, the ‘pink’ packet. It is no longer widely-used in processed foods or drinks since Aspartame is cheaper and considered safer.

What’s the Verdict?

We don’t recommend you Saccharin.

Unlike Stevia- the research shows conflicting conclusions that the FDA has downplayed for years.

Saccharin is usually the reason that there are cancer concerns revolving around these compounds. Even as of 1978, medical journals such as the Environmental Health Perspective declared ”Saccharin is carcinogenic for the urinary bladder in rats and mice, and most likely is carcinogenic in human beings.”

Saccharin is likely on it's way out because there are sweeter, healthful and more cost efficient alternatives out there for companies to produce.

Acesulfame Potassium/K (Artificial, No Effect on Blood Sugar)

What’s it in?

This one might be unfamiliar to you in the United States. There won’t be a packet of it on the table but it still makes it way in to a HOST of commercial processed foods because it’s also a food additive that helps extend the shelf life of the “sweetness”.  Acesulfame potassium is usually combined with aspartame or surculose and basically unavoidable if you are eating processed foods.

junkfoodIt is also the principle ingredient in Sunett and Sweet One, both of which will only be familiar to people outside of the United States.

What’s the Verdict?

Only consume it in small amounts.

We believe the safety of Ace K to be between Splenda and Aspartame, bu likely closer to the latter.

Since it's mainly processed foods you should be staying away from it anyway. There’s no too much of it in diet sodas so it’s not a huge concern.

Further Thoughts on Acesulfame Potassium

This stuff is 200 times sweeter than sugar and just like all artificial sweeteners, it doesn’t affect your blood sugar or insulin levels.

Chances are, unless you've been eating a Paleo-esque Diet (no processed foods, no restaurants/junk food) for the past 15-20 years, you've probably consumed more Ace K than any of these compounds. After all, it's a food additive that keeps the "sweet" in foods.

While that might be "proof" that it's not horrible for you- there's nothing about the compound or the majority of "foods" that it's in that suggests that it's any good for you. If you are making the attempt to eat REAL food, you'll be avoiding Ace K automatically. 

Sugar Alcohols (Artificial, No Effect on Blood Sugar)

(erythritol, sorbitol, and maltitol, xylitol,-ol compounds)

What’s it in?Reeses sugar free

Sugar alcohols are in a ton of food items. Candy, sugar-free syrup, chewing gum and tic-tacs.

It’s also sometimes in toothpaste and chap stick.

If a food contains any sugar alcohols, it will say so on the ‘nutrition facts’ under total carbohydrates and sugar.

What’s the Verdict?

Only consume sugar alcohols in small amounts.

They seem to on the same 'safety level' as sucarlose (Splenda) which is safer than aspartame, saccharin and neotame. As with everything else, opt for STEVIA, if possible.

Chances are- there are very few foods in your diet that have these compounds so you don’t have to actively avoid them.

Further Thoughts on Sugar Alcohols

Unlike the prior mentioned sweeteners, sugar alcohols can RAISE your blood sugar levels, suggesting that there is no point to using them. But since these compounds absorb so slowly, the effect on your blood glucose is quite minimal. The American Diabetes Association wouldn’t recommend them otherwise.

Some people, like Good Looking Loser, can tolerate sugar alocohols quite well- no bloating, stomach ache, gas or nausea. Others, especially girls for some reason (probably since they weigh less), don't tolerate sugar alcohols too well and are better of just avoiding them.

Monk Fruit

What's it in?Monk fruit

Monk fruit is the new kid on the block and you'll only find it in "orange" packets.

It's not in many foods that I've come across yet, although the "Chicago Tribune" claims it's in some granola bars and cocktails.

What’s the Verdict?

It's like Stevia, it's fine and even healthful.

If you don't like Stevia, I encourage you give Monk Fruit. These healthful, natural are a lifesaver for getting ripped and staying ripped.

If you can find Monk Fruit Extract, get that.

Like the non-extracts of Stevia, "regular" Monk Fruit will have 'fillers' such as dextrose or inulin.

Soon, if not already, you may see a product called "Nectresse". It's a product made by Splenda (McNeil) and it's Monk Fruit with additives. The main additive is SUGAR, in fact- it's the MAIN ingredient.

Avoid this one, I have no idea why products like this are even made.

Further Thoughts on Monk Fruit

Monk fruit extract is 300 times sweeter than sugar, the same as Stevia.

There's not a heck of a lot of research on Monk Fruit since it's new to the United States. It was added to the GRAS (Genearlly Recognize as Safe) in 2010. Still, a search have EVERY .edu and .gov site brought up nothing significant.

Still, you can feel good about this one because it's natural and an extract from the Monk Fruit, a fruit native to Thailand and China where people have been eating it for centuries. Essentially, you are just eating a select part of the fruit, with no calories.

That is- IF you are eating Monk Fruit Extract and not the commercially made Monk Fruit "mixtures" which even contain sugar.

What Sweetener Should I Use?

  • Stevia Extract (unlimited)
  • Monk Fruit Extract (unlimited)
  • Regular Stevia
  • Splenda / Aspartame (moderation)

That's it, none of the others belong in your mouth.

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Comments (12)

  1. baldur

Finally a good article about aspartame!! There is a lot of hippie-myths that aspartame is neurotoxin and is worse than sugar Anyway what are you thoughs on honey??

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  1. Good Looking Loser    baldur

It's true. I'd be dead (and brain dead) if it were as bad as "those people" say.

Honey is just sugar, I like sugar-free honey (made with sugar alcohols) once in a while though.

Agave, not that you asked, to my knowledge, is as bad as...

It's true. I'd be dead (and brain dead) if it were as bad as "those people" say.

Honey is just sugar, I like sugar-free honey (made with sugar alcohols) once in a while though.

Agave, not that you asked, to my knowledge, is as bad as high-fructose corn syrup -
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-jonny-bowden/debunking-the-blue-agave_b_450144.html

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  1. Jahmezz

Awesome Post! What is your opinion over all of the Flavor Enhancer for water like Mio? It has Acesulfame potassium which you advised was very small quantities. I usually make a green tea and use a few squirts to flavor my tea (nothing else no...

Awesome Post! What is your opinion over all of the Flavor Enhancer for water like Mio? It has Acesulfame potassium which you advised was very small quantities. I usually make a green tea and use a few squirts to flavor my tea (nothing else no sugar or honey). Good idea or should I try to use Stevia Extract/Monk Fruit Extract. I only use the Mio for the taste honesty.

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  1. Good Looking Loser    Jahmezz

Thank you man

Mio/the liquid sweeteners use Splenda has a base, so they arent too bad. Any powdered stuff is aspartame and those are worse.

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  1. Jase

I had been wondering if Stevia was as good for you as the advertisements made out so thanks for the verification. I see it popping up more often in certain foods and drinks so I'll keep more of an eye out now.

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  1. Good Looking Loser    Jase

Hey Jase- it definitely is. We'll have a specific article about it coming out in the next few days

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  1. Jahmezz

Hey Man,
You're my official/unofficial internet nutritionist! Hah! You mention sugar alcohols and making sure they are limited. I was going on a trip an wanted to find a protein bar that was zero sugar, but all the ones with zero sugar have...

Hey Man,
You're my official/unofficial internet nutritionist! Hah! You mention sugar alcohols and making sure they are limited. I was going on a trip an wanted to find a protein bar that was zero sugar, but all the ones with zero sugar have sugar alcohol lowest one had (11 grams a bar). Does a zero sugar, zero sugar alcohol protein bars exist? Which one/ones to you go for? Or is it better to just go for one without the sugar alcohol and just have the lower sugar like 2 grams per bar? Thanks man!

P.S.-Just ordered my first BCAA through your link on your supplement page!

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  1. Black Max

Great Info on Stevia! It's so freakin expensive to get the pure extract, but it's really worth it! Before reading this, I was getting the Wholesome Sweetners version which has the indgredients of: Organic Agave Inulin, Organic Stevia Extract...

Great Info on Stevia! It's so freakin expensive to get the pure extract, but it's really worth it! Before reading this, I was getting the Wholesome Sweetners version which has the indgredients of: Organic Agave Inulin, Organic Stevia Extract (Stevia rebaudiana), and Silica.
I am thinking the Inulin might be okay, but I am not sure about the Silica (isn’t that the crap they put in shoe boxes that say, “Do Not Eat”?). Thoughts??
http://www.wholesomesweeteners.com/brands/wholesome_sweeteners/organic_stevia.html

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  1. Good Looking Loser    Black Max

Yo- take a look at this-

thats what we use, super inexpensive, the one you linked to is okay if you don't want pure Stevia extract, ive used it. The Inulin (trace amounts) is a fiber filler, which is better than a sugar filler but it still ends...

Yo- take a look at this-

thats what we use, super inexpensive, the one you linked to is okay if you don't want pure Stevia extract, ive used it. The Inulin (trace amounts) is a fiber filler, which is better than a sugar filler but it still ends up being more expensive than buying the option above.

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  1. Black Max

Hey man, thanks looks like the link is missing from your comment. Thanks for replying.

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  1. daniel

and what about honey? i use organic honey.

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  1. Anna Cesnjevar

Great info! Just wanted to say thanks for really getting down to the nitty gritty on product ingredients. Trying to research ingredients in products makes me eyes start to glaze over even though I think its really important. I’m guessing that...

Great info! Just wanted to say thanks for really getting down to the nitty gritty on product ingredients. Trying to research ingredients in products makes me eyes start to glaze over even though I think its really important. I’m guessing that happens to a lot of people and that’s how product makers keep getting to make claims that aren’t very accurate. It’s enough to make me want to dump 95% of the products in my house! I am totally second guessing some products I’ve never looked twice at because of their natural/green labeling. Gonna have to add you to my blogroll!

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