The artificial sweetener debate – are they safe or not?

What are artificial sweeteners and how are they regulated in the United States?

Artificial sweeteners, also called sugar substitutes, are substances that are used instead of sucrose (table sugar) to sweeten foods and beverages. Because artificial sweeteners are many times sweeter than table sugar, smaller amounts are needed to create the same level of sweetness. Artificial sweeteners are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA, like the National Cancer Institute (NCI), is an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services. Is there an association between artificial sweeteners and cancer?

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Dr. Stegall’s Comments: There is a lot of debate about artificial sweeteners, but common sense tells us that artificial, man-made sweeteners such as these are not good for us. The question then becomes, are they bad for us? We do not have any long-term studies on artificial sweeteners, so anyone who tells you that they are safe should not be saying that. I recommend avoiding all artificial sweeteners and use a natural sweetener like stevia instead.


Artificial sweeteners: sugar-free, but at what cost?

By offering the taste of sweetness without any calories, artificial sweeteners seem like they could be one answer to effective weight loss. The average 12-ounce can of sugar-sweetened soda delivers about 150 calories, almost all of them from sugar. The same amount of diet soda—zero calories. The choice seems like a no-brainer.

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Dr. Stegall’s Comments: I have numerous patients who experienced daily headaches, brain fog, and digestive disturbances which I feel were due to the artificial sweeteners. When the aspartame and sucralose were stopped, the symptoms went away. If these symptoms can occur in the short-term, just think about the potential harm over the long-term.


The Evidence Supports Artificial Sweeteners Over Sugar

In the last few years, I’ve watched a continuing battle among my friends about which is worse for you: artificial sweeteners or sugar. Unless you want to forgo all beverages that are sweet, you’re going to run into one of these. Rather than rely on anecdote or myth, we can inform this debate with research.

The available evidence points to the fact that there appears to be a correlation between sugar consumption and health problems; none can be detected with artificial sweeteners.

Let’s start with artificial sweeteners. These have, for decades, been attacked as harmful chemicals. But everything is a “chemical,” and not all of them are bad for us.

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Dr. Stegall’s Comments: This article assumes that sugar and artificial sweeteners are the only options. What this author fails to mention is that there are natural sweeteners such as stevia, monk fruit, xylitol, and erythritol which are much better options. Stevia is my choice, as it is natural, calorie-free, and will not raise blood sugar.