The Bitter Truth About Artificial Sugar

“Splenda just got a lot scarier.”

That line – from Men’s Fitness – was just one of the many we saw in response to a new study linking Splenda to cancer.

The study out of Bologna, Italy reported that when mice were fed diets of sucralose – the sugar in Splenda – they developed cancer more frequently than those not fed sucralose. In fact, the mice fed the most sucralose had a 10% higher incidence of cancer than those without.

But this study has some major problems. First, and most important, it’s only one study. We don’t have dozens of similar studies to back up the findings.

And we can’t ignore the large quantity of sucralose these mice ate. The lowest dose given was about 60 mg of the sugary stuff for every one kg of the mouse’s body weight.

The average American male weighs about 88 kg (195 pounds). That means a person would be eating 5,340 mg of sucralose every day to be on par with these mice. A single packet of Splenda contains 12 mg of sucralose… so you’d have to eat 445 packets of Splenda a day to meet that amount. And that was the lowest amount tested.

It’s fair to say that most of us don’t put 300 packets of Splenda in our coffee each morning. So these results don’t mirror human consumption.

But if you think your blood sugar won’t spike after your daily can of diet soda, think again…

Insulin resistance, you might remember, is one of the leading causes of type-2 diabetes. It happens when your body loses its ability to recognize insulin in the blood stream and break down sugar. But artificial sweeteners cause the same problems.

Without getting too technical, sucralose triggers receptors in our gut the same way regular sugar does.

Sucralose triggers the production of glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1). GLP-1 regulates sugars in the body. When released, it alters how much insulin you make and how quickly your body absorbs sugar. Sweeteners like sucralose and sugar cause a rapid increase in blood sugar.

Elevated blood sugar levels trigger the production of fat, increase inflammation, and raise blood pressure.

Not only do artificial sugars act like sugar, even the so-called “natural and healthy” sugars like honey get the same reaction and changes as high-fructose corn syrup and white sugars… A study from the Journal of Nutrition showed how similarly our bodies respond to these sugar substitutes.

Researchers tested people’s responses to sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and honey. They looked at blood sugar, insulin, and cholesterol levels, as well as the chemical markers of inflammation and changes in body weight. They found no difference between the sweeteners.

There was one problem with this study, though: The researchers didn’t use raw honey. Instead, they used commercially available honey (the stuff sold at your local grocery store). This stuff is pasteurized, overprocessed, and not natural. In fact, it may even contain high-fructose corn syrup.

Don’t let this one study deter you from using honey in small quantities for your sweet tooth. Make sure to shop for raw, unprocessed honey to get all of the antioxidants and blood sugar-regulating benefits.

As we mentioned previously, the science on artificial sweeteners is still less than stellar. So what can you do to cut back on sugar but still satisfy your sweet tooth? Look for natural sweet foods like fruits. You’ll still get sugar, but the fiber in the fruit helps to slow the absorption of sugar. And you’ll get all the health benefits of fruits, too.

What We’re Reading…