Used here and there, artificial sweeteners can help you safely cut calories while enjoying sweet snacks and flavored foods. However, you may have heard that artificial sweeteners are not as healthy as many people assume — and cancer risks are just the beginning of the cause for concern.
Research has uncovered many reasons not to use artificial sweeteners, ranging from problems with your metabolism to dental damage. Sugary foods cause health problems, but zero-calorie sweeteners are far from perfect.
Among the reasons not to use artificial sweeteners, the negative effects on teeth are less famous than other side effects. However, these products are generally very acidic. The acid will erode your tooth enamel. Eat or drink enough products with sweeteners and eventually the teeth will start dissolving away.
Not sure if you consume too many artificial sweeteners? Besides diet sodas, you’ll often find them in products like these:
- Flavored milk
- Juice blends and juice cocktails
- Frozen pastries
- Microwavable kettle corn
- Snacks advertised as reduced-calorie
- Cough drops
- Chewing gum
- Vitamin pills and supplements
In the artificial sweetener category, we have aspartame, sucralose, neotame, saccharin, and acesulfame potassium.
Many more foods are sweetened with low-calorie sugar alcohols, too. These include sorbitol, xylitol, erythritol and many others. Xylitol may have positive effects on dental health, but other sugar alcohols tend to be very acidic and cause erosion problems just like artificial sweeteners.
Other health-related reasons not to use artificial sweeteners:
Blood sugar spikes. Some evidence suggests that your blood sugar levels may spike and perhaps even cause an intolerance to real glucose.
Type 2 diabetes. It’s unclear how artificial sweeteners have a direct link with diabetes, but this research suggests people who consume large amounts of them are also at risk for developing the disease.
Hunger and weight control. Scientists believe artificial sweeteners may negatively affect your ability to judge hunger and how much you’ve eaten, leading to unintended weight gain or weight control problems.
Affects on children are unclear. We simply do not have enough proof that artificial sweeteners are generally safe for kids to consume regularly or in large doses.
Do you think there are enough reasons not to use artificial sweeteners? Here are some things you can do to cut back:
- Switching to club soda instead of diet soda
- Choose unsweetened dairy items
- Eat snacks with real sugar and clean your teeth afterward
- Choose agave nectar, maple syrup and other natural sweeteners when you want to avoid sugar
- Memorize the names of these sweeteners and read ingredient labels
When all else fails, rinse with water after consuming acidic sweeteners and make sure to brush your teeth at least twice daily. We can look for enamel erosion and other signs of damage so you know whether you need to change your habits.