Artificial Sweeteners: Really all that bad?

Written By


Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.

Anyone see the new Dr. Pepper?


I was driving down the Interstate this week, right past a billboard advertising the latest soda gracing the shelves in a grocery store near you:


“Naturally sweetened Dr. Pepper”—along with its companions 7UP and Canada Dry—now boast ‘natural sugar and Stevia’, the least known evils of all artificial sweeteners.



This, in addition to the New York Time’s article on Coca Cola’s new campaign to fight obesity (Their solution? Exercise more! )…Apparently the cola industry is beginning to feel the heat from the nutrition community, or at least the awareness of America’s health conscious movement by and large:


Sugar. Sweeteners. Caffeine.


We’re on to you Big Soda Industry…


With documentaries like Katie Couric’s “Fed Up” —exposing America’s sugar crisis (the average American consumes 126.4 grams of sugar every DAY—five times more than the recommended MAXIMUM amount of 25 grams of sugar  and awareness around the escalating Diabetes and obesity epidemics, Americans at least seem to have come to terms with the fact that soda may not be the best option.



In fact, over the last two decades, consumption of full-calorie sodas by the average American has dropped by 25 percent.


What is really good about soda anyway?


Oh yea. The taste.


It’s addicting (hello sugar and/or caffeine dependency).


BUT “thankfully” there is another option for this: Today practically EVERY version of soda (plus tea, lemonade, and any other beverage) now has a no-calorie or low-calorie diet version to help you justify a little bubbly.


While the sugar ‘crisis’ in our soda consumption may be on the DECLINE, our intake of added sweeteners is on the RISE—reportedly Americans are now consuming about 125 lbs. of sweeteners per year. 


And while these Diet Cokes, Diet Snapples, Diet Dr. Peppers, and even bars, protein powders, yogurts, cereals, breads and more may seem like they are healthier versions of your former processed-food staples…they are just as hazardous to your health, if not more, as the overconsumption of sugar (and did I mention, addicting?).


Not too long ago, I sat down with a woman who literally got tears in her eyes when the topic of cutting back from her consumption of Diet Coke…


And another who drinks a 8-12 cans a day…


And, yet, another who subsists off G-2 Gatorade as her “water-intake” every time thirst strikes.


No judgment either!


I’ve been there—a recovered addict from Crystal Light.


For three years straight, twice daily, I consumed an entire pitcher full to myself—8 something servings in one setting of the strawberry-banana or lemonade flavored powder.


And, despite the daily indigestion, varying constipation and loose stools, foggy brain and lack of appetite I experienced, I NEVER once correlated what I was eating with what I was feeling!


The FIRST time I ever really connected any symptom with the drink in fact occurred one afternoon about five years ago, after eating lunch that sent me to literally fall onto the floor, curled up in the fetal position in excruciating stomach pain, seriously contemplating driving myself to the ER.


I have no idea why my symptoms decided to flare that day in particular, but after my episode, I vowed up and down that I had to cut my Crystal Light addiction out.


And so I did. Quit cold turkey.


The results?




Angels singing “Halleluiah” welcomed in improved mental clarity, stomach ease, improved constipation, cured nausea, renewed vision, even enhanced mood.


Thus, it is an obligation to spread this good news today—artificial sweeteners are wreaking havoc on your health.


And sweeteners are NOT just confined to sodas.


Check it out:

  • Yogurt
  • Protein powders
  • Cereals
  • Bars
  • Gum
  • Mints
  • Multi-vitamins
  • Coffees and teas
  • Topping mixes
  • Flavor-infused water
  • Cough drops, Emergen-C, and other medicines
  • Salad dressings
  • Baked goods
  • Candy
  • Canned fruits
  • Ice cream, pudding
  • Jell-O


So, you’ve heard this before, but REALLY, WHY are artificial sweeteners all that bad? ESPECIALLY if you eat an otherwise generally healthy diet? After all, a little dirt never hurt right?…


True. To an extent, a little dirt ain’t all that bad (remember the 80/20, or 70/30 healthy eating philosophy), BUT when it comes to sweeteners—namely Aspartame (Nutrasweet, Equal), Sucralose (Splenda) and Saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low), these seemingly innocent sugar alternatives pack a silent, but deadly, punch to your bod.


In fact, the FDA is outright honest in its literature and research on the subject on its website:


For instance, in one review of the literature and research studies, the FDA reports the following reactions directly attributed to Aspartame consumption:

  • Decreased vision and/or other eye problems
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness, unsteadiness
  • Tinnitus (“ringing,” “buzzing”)
  • Depression
  • Anxiety attacks
  • Severe itching without a rash
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Palpitations, tachycardia (rapid heart action)
  • “Shortness of breath”
  • Recent hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Atypical chest pain
  • Menstrual changes
  • Problems with diabetes
  • Frequency of voiding (day and night), burning on urination
  • Joint pains
  • Excessive thirst


On the Sucralose (Splenda) front, things don’t look much better.


While the sweetener has been on the market now for nearly 20 years (since 1998) and the approval was given only after the FDA supposedly reviewed more than 110 animal and human safety studies… out of these total 110 studies, however, only two were actually human studies, and the longest one was conducted for four days. 


Common side-effects of Sucralose ingestion include:

  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Migraines
  • Seizures
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Allergic reactions
  • Blood sugar increases
  • Weight gain


And, according to the Sucralose Toxicity Information Center, ingested sucralose concentrates in the liver, kidney, and gastrointestinal tract, killing off the good bacteria you have in your gut (decreasing your healthy gut flora), as well as increasing the pH level in the intestines (i.e. leading to slowed and poor digestion).


Not much better, eh?


As for Saccharin (Sweet’N Low, Sugar Twin), the FDA has approved this guy ‘safe’ after multiple studies following an instance wherein cancerous tumors were detected in rats. However, like our other sweetener friends: Saccharin impairs your brain’s ability to determine it’s own hunger-fullness cues, as well as promotes metabolic and blood sugar handling issues (making you more susceptible to hyper and hypo-glycemic episodes).


I, like you, really hate reading laundry lists of side effects. In fact, I tend to tune them out.


Similar to an infomercial on some new pharmaceutical on TV, it seems as though there are always at least 100 ‘disclaimers’ of potential side effects of a drug, supplement or food product that marketers have to save their butts by listing them


(“May cause indigestion, cramping, bloating, diarrhea, decreased sexual function, fatigue, nausea, and…oh yeah, death…You can buy this product at a drug store near you”…Music plays in background, people dance and smile on the screen in a wide open green field….etc.)


However folks, these symptoms are real: a condition that is really known as “sweetener toxicity” to the body—essentially straight-up poison to your system.


In addition, a random fun fact if you are thinking you are doing your body good by avoiding sugar: think again. The sweeteners have actually been shown in studies to raise your blood sugar—just like sugar does!


In a study conducted last September, researchers found that mice fed artificial sweeteners developed higher blood sugar levels compared to mice drinking plain water or even water laced with sugar.

There’s no getting around it:


Artificial sweeteners have no upside.



The best way to break up with them?


Just say “No.”




If you have a craving for sweets, rather than trying to find “healthier” ways to continue indulging in them, it is in your best interest to learn methods to relieve those cravings.


And, worst case scenario, if you do reach for anything, reach for STEVIA—a natural plant-derived natural sweetener.

Unlike aspartame and other artificial sweeteners (that have been linked with dangerous toxicities), it is a safe, natural alternative that’s has been around for over 1500 years.


Stevia, along with real raw honey, dates, or coconut sugar, are my sweeteners of choice if a baking recipe ever calls for a hint of sweetness.


However, like most choices, especially sweeteners, I recommend using it in moderation; and moreover, realize what it is you are putting in your body (Dr. Pepper sweetened with Stevia, vs. a homemade almond-flour-based pumpkin muffin with a hint of Stevia give you a completely different NUTRITION bang!)—and ask yourself if it is beneficial or not?


Another soda option: La Croix or Topo Chico (water) can give you that ‘little bubbly’ fix without the impacts of diet sodas.


In addition, it is important to note: if you have insulin issues, it is suggested that you avoid sweeteners altogether, including Stevia, as they all can decrease your sensitivity to insulin.


Hence if you struggle with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or extra weight, then you have “insulin sensitivity issues” and would best benefit from avoiding ALL sweeteners.


Above all: You only get one body; take care of it.



One thought on “Artificial Sweeteners: Really all that bad?

  1. Last two years I hv been using splenda. Your detailed write up has given me a scare! Pl tell me then with what I should have my coffee since I just can’t drink without it being a bit sweet. I am diabetic on border line managing without any medication. My fasting is 110 and post eating after 1 hr never crosses 130 mg
    I lke to drink diet coke at least two times a week. Pl advise

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