5 Things No One Tells You About Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial Sweeteners


What could be better than the taste of sweet without the calories? Artificial sweeteners seemingly give you this benefit. Whether they come in pink, yellow, or blue packets, artificial sweeteners are essentially calorie-free. Made from synthetic ingredients, these sweeteners offer a sweet taste without the calories or spike in blood sugar.

Artificial sweeteners are synthetic sugar substitutes that are often used as a sugar substitute for diabetics and others on low-carbohydrate or low-calorie diets. Some common artificial sweeteners include aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, neotame, and acesulfame potassium.

The idea of a sweet-tasting, calorie-free drink is appealing, but don’t be fooled by the marketing hype The question of artificial sweeteners’ adverse effects on people’s health has been a matter of debate for years. Some studies show that for all their sweetness, artificial sweeteners aren’t a bargain for your health. It’s an area that needs more research.

They Don’t Help You Reduce Sugar Dependence

Artificial sweeteners may not have the calories of sugar, but each time you use one, you’re stimulating sweet receptors on your tongue and hitting dopamine receptors in your brain and your brain learns to crave that. As long as you provide your body with an unending supply of sweet, you won’t reduce your body’s cravings for sweetness. Plus, artificial sweeteners are sweeter and more intense than sugar itself, so you’re increasing your body’s desire to consume sweetness.

But what if you can’t give up sugar? Skip the artificial sweeteners and gradually reduce the amount of sweet you put into your body, so your body starts down the path of craving sweetness less. As you slowly reduce the sweetener content of your diet, your taste buds become more sensitive to the taste of food in its whole, unenhanced state.

Artificial Sweeteners Create a Calorie-Sweetness Mismatch

Another concern about artificial sweeteners is they offer a sweet taste without supplying your body with energy. This is known as a calorie mismatch. When you eat something sweet, your body expects calories to follow. When they don’t, your brain doesn’t turn off the hunger response, and you still want to eat to supply the missing calories your body thinks you should have. Therefore, artificial sweeteners may not reduce hunger in the same way foods that contain energy do.

They Don’t Necessarily Help with Weight Loss

Artificial sweeteners are often touted for their supposed ability to help people lose weight or keep it off. On the plus side, some studies have shown that artificially sweetened beverages help with weight loss, while others suggest they may be detrimental to health and increase the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Studies on artificial sweeteners are limited, which makes it difficult to draw definitive conclusions about their impact on human health. Rather than reaching for artificial sweeteners, it would be more beneficial to slowly wean yourself of all sweeteners. At least, it’s better to consume them in moderation.

Artificial Sweeteners May Harm Metabolic Health

Despite being sugar free, there are still concerns that artificial sweeteners could fuel metabolic problems, like insulin resistance. Some research that measures glucose and insulin responses to artificial sweeteners shows these sweeteners increase insulin levels and provoke insulin resistance. For example, a study found that consuming artificial sweeteners stimulated the release of insulin into the bloodstream. Over time, the higher circulating level of insulin could reduce insulin receptor sensitivity and cause insulin resistance.

Since gut health is closely tied to immune health and inflammation, scientists propose that artificial sweeteners may increase insulin resistance by disrupting the gut microbiome. The exact mechanism is an area that needs more research, but there’s enough evidence that you shouldn’t overdo artificial sweeteners if you have prediabetes or type 2 diabetes.

They Can Lead to Overcompensation

If you use artificial sweeteners in place of sugar, you might compensate by allowing yourself more leeway with another part of your diet. This partially explains why some people don’t lose weight when they switch to artificial sweeteners. It’s the old Diet Coke with a Big Mac and fries’ philosophy. Some people think cutting back on sugar in one part of their diet gives them more leeway to indulge in another. If you drink a diet soda with a brownie, you won’t undo the harmful effects of the brownie and the 20 grams of sugar it contains.

A better approach is to change the way you approach eating. Choose more whole, unaltered foods with no added sugar, and know that your tastes will change with time. You won’t crave sweets and junk food in the same way. Most ultra-processed foods contain either sugar or artificial sweeteners and neither are nutritious or beneficial to your health. Artificial sweeteners may even make you less sensitive to sweetness, causing you to consume more sugary food overall.

The Bottom Line

Now you know why artificial sweeteners are no bargain for your health or your waistline. Reduce all things sweet in your life by slowing cutting back and allowing your body time to adapt to foods that are less sweet. It takes time and patience, but you can do it!


  • Mathur K, Agrawal RK, Nagpure S, Deshpande D. Effect of artificial sweeteners on insulin resistance among type-2 diabetes mellitus patients. J Family Med Prim Care. 2020 Jan 28;9(1):69-71. doi: 10.4103/jfmpc.jfmpc_329_19. PMID: 32110567; PMCID: PMC7014832.
  • “Sweet taste, not just calories, dictates metabolic ….” 10 Aug. 2017, news.yale.edu/2017/08/10/sweet-taste-not-just-calories-dictates-metabolic-response.
  • “Sweet taste, not just calories, dictates metabolic ….” 15 Aug. 2017, medicine.yale.edu/news-article/sweet-taste-not-just-calories-dictates-metabolic-response/.
  • “Artificial Sweeteners Trick the Brain: Study.” 10 Aug. 2017, webmd.com/diabetes/news/20170810/artificial-sweeteners-trick-the-brain-study.
  • Suez J, Korem T, Zilberman-Schapira G, Segal E, Elinav E. Non-caloric artificial sweeteners and the microbiome: findings and challenges. Gut Microbes. 2015;6(2):149-55. doi: 10.1080/19490976.2015.1017700. Epub 2015 Apr 1. PMID: 25831243; PMCID: PMC4615743.
  • Mathur K, Agrawal RK, Nagpure S, Deshpande D. Effect of artificial sweeteners on insulin resistance among type-2 diabetes mellitus patients. J Family Med Prim Care. 2020 Jan 28;9(1):69-71. doi: 10.4103/jfmpc.jfmpc_329_19. PMID: 32110567; PMCID: PMC7014832.

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