The Skinny on Artificial Sweeteners
May 11, 2017
Besides fat burners, fake sugars or artificial sweeteners, are another one of those topics we receive daily emails on.
Are they ok to eat on a diet?
Should I track them?
Does they raise blood sugar?
Does they release insulin?
We are going to delve into these, and how they fit into flexible dieting.
ARE ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS BAD?
First, are they okay to eat? That is a decision for you to make.
With our Macro Coaching at Flexibledieting.com we preach moderation. All are considered safe by the USDA as food additives, but we fully understand not wanting to ingest more chemicals intentionally then you have to.
With the widespread prevalence of them in modern diets, I don’t know what the future health records will show in regards to them. I do know that diabetes and obesity are major health issues facing our country now, so the worthiness of the trade off is a tempting one. I personally eat them, in moderation.
Second, should you track them? The short answer is “yes”, but like a lot of things in flexible dieting, it depends.
“Fake sugar” encompasses a wide range of ingredients, from Splenda, to aspartame, to xylitol, to stevia, and more. There are two schools of thought to tracking fake sugars.
The first, track everything. I can’t argue with this approach. When you are trying to trouble shoot a plateau or solve bloating, it helps to have an accurate diary to look over and find trends. This is the same reason we track carbs and fiber vs. net carbs.
If you eat 100 grams of carbs from gummy bears or 100 grams of net carbs from spinach, you will probably feel very different, even though if you only track net carbs, these would be identical.
Also, sugar alcohol can raise blood sugar and effect insulin. By keeping an honest record, you can make useful adjustments while looking at all the information. This can become tedious though.
The second approach is what most people use (but doesn’t mean it’s right).
If it has sugar alcohols, mentions net carbs on the label, or has macros to it, track it. If it’s an occasional can of diet soda or a scoop of stevia here and there, you can skip it.
Notice I said occasionally. One piece of sugar free gum, good to go. 4 packs a day (yes, a real client!) you may want to track that.
DOES IT RAISE BLOOD SUGAR AND INSULIN?
Maybe. The results are mixed.
Most studies have shown no change in either. Some recent studies have shown variation between the artificial sweetener groups and the control, indicating at least some effect on the metabolic process.
Some, while not raising blood sugar or insulin alone, can alter the subsequent response to glucose ingestion. The exact process has not been identified.
Sugar alcohols can have a mild rise in both.
A recent Israeli study also found a change in gut bacteria after eating artificial sweeteners, but there has been no follow up studies to examine the subsequent physiological changes on weight loss.
In short, more data is needed but it is safe to conclude that there could be some effect. Notice I’m not saying this is bad, harmful, spikes insulin, etc.
What the data points to is there is a possible interaction between this process and artificial sweeteners. Take home message? It’s not as neutral as water, but I think we already knew that…every action has a reaction.
NOTHING IS FREE IN LIFE
Dieting is no different. Honesty is the best policy.
Artificial sweeteners, in moderation, can help get you through some rough times. Try looking at the idea of “healthy” in relation to reaching and maintaining long term weight loss goals.
If a daily can of diet soda or occasional swapping out of sugar for Splenda in a baked good helps keep you on track and losing weight and keeps the binge fairy away, I’m all for it. When used as a daily crutch to try to “cheat” your numbers, it can lead to problems and needs to be addressed.
Changes in gut bacteria can lead to bloating, and healthy insulin and blood sugar responses could be altered. Anyone who has eaten a bag of sugar free candy can also attest that excess sugar alcohol can lead to an upset stomach or diarrhea.
Low to moderate amounts of artificial sweeteners as part of a balanced, flexible diet, won’t cause you harm.
Obsession, excess, and addiction to them can. The same can be said for ice cream, pop tarts, tri-tip….pretty much anything.
Realize it’s a tool in your tool box.
How and when you use it is up to you and your goals.