The Verdict on Artificial Sweeteners

The Verdict on Artificial Sweeteners

A common question I am asked by my weight loss patients revolves around whether or not to use artificial sweeteners.

Artificial sweeteners have always been a controversial topic. You may have heard that they are bad for your health by increased risk of certain diseases, but on the other hand you may have heard that they are safe and can help lose weight and decrease sugar intake.

Artificial sweeteners are basically synthetic sugar substitutes, but can also be derived from plants and herbs. We don’t need to use as much of it as they are generally much sweeter than sugar. In fact, they are anywhere from 30 to 8,000 times sweeter than sugar. They also generally don’t have any calories.

In addition, they are typically found in foods labeled “sugar-free” or “diet”.

 Let’s talk about some common artificial sweeteners.

  1. Aspartame (Equal) – This is probably the most studied. It has been linked to causing everything from weight gain to cancer. But studies have not been conclusive. The FDA states that it is ok to use in moderation.
  2. Saccharin (Sweet and low) – Back in the 70s, rat studies show a link between saccharin and bladder cancer. As a result, there was a warning label on it. But due to lack of evidence of it causing cancer in humans, the warning label was removed in 2000.
  3. Sucralose (Splenda) – Again, there have been no studies linking it to cancer. And this sweetener has the added benefit of being used in baking.
  4. Next is Stevia (Truvia) – This is derived from the stevia plant and is refined and processed into this sweetener. It is generally considered safe, and not as processed as the synthetic ones.
  5. And then there are Sugar Alcohols (like xylitol, mannitol, sorbitol) – They come from plants and are processed into sugar alcohols. They do have a few calories, but less than sugar. They are not fully absorbed by our intestines, so they don’t raise our blood sugar significantly.

Many people believe that artificial sweeteners may increase appetite and lead to weight gain. However, recent studies have found that replacing sugary foods or drinks with artificially sweetened ones may actually reduce hunger and calorie intake. In addition, randomized controlled studies — which are considered the gold standard in scientific research — show that artificial sweeteners may reduce body weight, fat mass, and waist circumference.

So, what is the verdict on artificial sweeteners? The answer is use it in moderation. If you are concerned about synthetic sweeteners, then choose the more naturally derived sweeteners like stevia or even sugar alcohols.

At Physicians Premier Weight and Wellness, our comprehensive programs address every aspect of creating a healthy lifestyle so you can lose weight quickly and effectively.  If you are ready to get started on your weight loss journey – or simply want more information, please reach out to us at or give us a call at 703-783-5673.