Many people have increased their consumption of artificial sweeteners because their sense of taste has changed. According to Newsweek, researchers found that the use of artificial sweeteners grew by 200 percent in children, and 54 percent in adults, between the years of 2000-2012. While studies have shown that parents do not want to give them to their children, 77 percent of respondents can’t always identify artificial sweeteners in everyday products. Saving calories with artificial sweeteners don’t always work the way we hope, however. One study that followed 5,158 adults for nearly eight years found that those who regularly consumed artificial sweeteners at least twice per day were more likely to gain weight than those who did not drink the sweeteners. The theory is not that sweeteners cause food cravings, but that people think that if they’re saving calories in one place, they have more calories to spend elsewhere.
The human body can recognize five types of taste: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and savory. Scientists believe that humans evolved to recognize sweet tastes because they signal an energy-dense food full of carbohydrates. You can see how this might confuse the body when artificial sweeteners offer sweetness without any nutritional value. According to Harvard Health, since artificial or non-nutritive sweeteners are so much more potent than table sugar, they can potentially overstimulate the body’s sugar receptors. The result is a limited tolerance for more complex tastes and less desire to eat naturally sweet foods, such as fruits. And while the brain may be fooled temporarily, a new study released from Columbia University’s Zuckerman Institute shows evidence that your gut knows better. A study on mice showed that artificial sweeteners could trick the receptors from the tongue to the brain, but not receptors from the gut to the brain.
You Could Become Addicted
Diet sodas tend to be the biggest culprit of artificial sweetener consumption. According to doctors speaking with CNN, sodas, both sugared and artificially sweetened sodas, have addictive qualities. The mix of sweetness (real or artificial) paired with caffeine and carbonation is enough to keep millions of people coming back for more. The issue becomes over-consumption, and the possibility of adverse health effects is very real. A large observational study of more than 81,000 post-menopausal women showed that those who drank more than one artificially sweetened drink per day had an increased risk of blood clots. Another study followed 451,743 soda drinkers from 10 countries in Europe. Results showed that consumption of soft drinks, both sugared and artificially sweetened, was associated with a higher risk of all-cause mortality. The bottom line: Many people consider artificial sweeteners to be harmless. Others are not so sure. Only you can decide what’s best for your health.