Are Artificial Sweeteners Healthy or Dangerous? | STACK Fitness

The Lowdown on Artificial Sweeteners: Are They Healthy or Dangerous?

January 16, 2013 | Kait Fortunato

Must See Nutrition Videos

As a registered dietitian, I am an advocate for complete foods, items like whole butter, natural peanut butter, plain yogurt with fresh fruit and, yes, even real sugar. Some of these foods aren't necessarily the healthiest, but when it comes to fueling your body, real always beats artificial. (Check out what the YOU Docs have to say in Q&A on Healthy vs. Unhealthy Foods.)

Artificial sweeteners are synthetic substances that are often more intense than table sugar. Their package ingredients are listed as a variety of things, including aspartame, neotane, saccharin, sugar alcohols and sucralose. The FDA classifies artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols, calling them "Generally Recognized As Safe," or GRAS. Although The National Cancer Institute deemed it untrue, several studies have linked artificial sweeteners with bladder cancer in rats. Other findings have linked artificial sweeteners to migraines.

So while artificial sweeteners may not be dangerous, I believe real food is always a better choice, especially when it comes to artificial sweeteners.

Where does this leave dieters who enjoy these no-calorie options? Regular consumption of artificial sweeteners can actually work negatively against weight management, because they increase cravings for sweet foods. If your goal is to eat healthier, instead of overdoing artificial ingredients, it's better to eat real sweets in moderation. But this doesn't have to mean white, refined sugar, which is not great for our bodies either. Great alternatives are natural sweeteners like honey or agave.

Athletes do need sugar and carbohydrates to perform, and natural fuel is the best kind. (Read how to put this advice into  action in How to Make Flavorful Meals Without Excess Fat, Sugar and Sodium.)

Sources

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/artificial-sweeteners/MY00073
http://www.brianmac.co.uk/articles/article028.htm
Research cited.

Kait Fortunato
- Kait Fortunato is a registered dietitian at Rebecca Bitzer & Associates, a large and experienced nutrition practice in Maryland. She focuses on individualized nutritional recommendations...
Kait Fortunato
- Kait Fortunato is a registered dietitian at Rebecca Bitzer & Associates, a large and experienced nutrition practice in Maryland. She focuses on individualized nutritional recommendations...
More Cool Stuff You'll Like

3 Nutrition Mistakes Endurance Athletes Make and How to Fix Them

It is no question that endurance athletes need more fuel than the average gym rat, but sometimes what you eat can do more harm than good and can...

How Friends and Family Affect Your Food Choices

Salad Showdown: Which Greens Are the Healthiest?

You Should Eat the Peel of These 12 Fruits and Vegetables

Are You Eating Too Much Protein?

The Cheat Meal Day: Why It's Not So Smart

How to Deal With Your Sugar Cravings

Fuel Up Fast With 4 Smoothies From the New York Giants

The 6 Worst Foods for Athletes

5 Ways to Fuel Your Early Morning Workout

Tips for Healthy Weight Gain

Brown Rice vs. White Rice: Does It Really Matter?

11 Food Services That Deliver Ready-Made Nutritious Meals

12 Foods Every Athlete Should Eat

STUDY: Eat More Fruits and Veggies, Live (Almost) Forever

3 Fruits and 3 Vegetables Athletes Must Eat

Foods for Athletes: Top Trends for 2014

10 Easy Ways to Eat Real Food

Healthy (and Unhealthy) BBQ Ideas For Athletes

Load Up on These Foods at Your Backyard Barbecue

Living Near Fast Food Could Increase Your Odds of Obesity

9 Athlete-Approved Peanut Butter Sandwiches

5 'Good Foods' That Might Be Bad for You

5 Healthy Foods That Got a Bad Rap

How to Eat Organic Without Breaking the Bank

7 Foods That Are Ruining Your Workouts

The Case for Red Meat

Diet Changes: 5 Tips to Help You Stick to Your Plan

Terrible Toppings: The 5 Worst Things We Put on Food

The Best Foods for Digestive Health

The Healthiest (And Unhealthiest) Ways to Eat Chicken

6 Eating Mistakes That Undo Your Workouts

A Sneaky Food Additive Athletes Should Avoid

How Undereating Can Make You Gain Weight

The Boston Cannons'

5 Non-Boring Ways To Eat Chicken

5 Foods That Are Stunningly High in Sodium

Spice Up Your Healthy Cooking With These Lively Combos

5 Nutritional Power Combos for Athletes

Healthy Makeovers for 3 Classic Meals

5 Delicious Ways to Make Junk Food Less Junky

5 'Healthy' Side Dishes That Are Worse Than French Fries

Where the Paleo Diet Falls Short

Vegetarian Athlete Tips: Olympic Swimmer Kate Ziegler

4 'Bad Foods' That Might be Good for You

5 Ways Junk Food Can Mess With Your Head

Why You Need Dietary Fiber

5 Protein-Packed Recovery Shakes