Are there side effects from artificial sweeteners?

Are There Artificial Sweeteners Side Effects?

This post was written as a guest blog for SplendaLiving.com. You can read the original post here.

I have been compensated for my time by McNeil Nutritionals, LLC, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog With Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

Many things in our lives are now easier thanks to the Internet. We can book our own flights for a vacation, check what the weather will be when we arrive and order new clothes before we leave. But finding good health advice online is not an easy task.

If you’ve ever tried to get an answer to a health question you’ve probably ended up more confused – or even frightened – about your condition, after scanning all of the possibilities. That is especially true when it comes to alleged (or suspected) side effects of artificial sweeteners (commonly known as “sugar substitutes” or what I call “low-calorie sweeteners”).

I have written about the myths associated with sucralose (the sweetening ingredient in SPLENDA® Sweeteners) and other sugar substitutes before in individual blogs. For this blog, I thought it would be useful to pull together the most commonly asked questions so you have the answers you are seeking all in one place.

Dispelling the Myths about Artificial Sweeteners Side Effects

Q: Do artificial sweeteners, like SPLENDA® Sweeteners, cause weight gain?

A: No. Artificial sweeteners can help decrease caloric intake when they are used in place of sugar, so they can help you lose weight when part of an energy-balanced diet with regular physical activity.

Learn more about misinformation regarding weight gain and low-calorie sweeteners. Also, read about how low calorie sweeteners can support yourweight loss efforts.

Q: Will using SPLENDA® Sweetener Products or other sugar substitutes make me crave sweets?

A: No. Research shows food cravings are not the same for everyone and not triggered by the same foods. Since sucralose, the sweetening ingredient in SPLENDA® Sweeteners, is 600 times sweeter than sugar, some people believe it will trigger cravings for them if they like sweets. But studies on people who are regular users of SPLENDA® Products and other artificial sweeteners show that these products can be an aid to weight management. Read more in my blog about sweet cravings and satisfying our desire for sweet taste with fewer calories.

Q: Can no- and low-calorie sweeteners like SPLENDA® Sweeteners make me have an increased appetite?

A: No. It is normal to want more of a food that tastes good to us, but if we pay attention to our hunger and satiety signals we can avoid overeating. Low calorie sweeteners have been shown to be a useful tool in weight management by helping people feel more satisfied with their food and beverage choices.

Learn more from my blog about the appetite myth, and about signs of hunger vs. appetite.

Q: Do artificial sweeteners, like sucralose, cause digestive problems?

A: No. Data from over 100 studies show sucralose has no side effects. Changes in our stomach sounds and bowel habits can be triggered by many healthy foods we eat and are a sign of normal digestion at work.

Read more about sucralose and digestive health.

Q: Can sugar substitutes cause diabetes?

A: No. People who have diabetes are advised to reduce their sugar and carbohydrate intake by using sugar substitutes (such as SPLENDA® Sweetener Products). Sucralose is not a carbohydrate so it does not affect our blood glucose levels or insulin requirements.

Learn more of the “sweet truth” about artificial sweeteners and diabetes.

Now that you have all the answers to your questions about side effects and artificial sweeteners you can get back to planning your next vacation via the Internet!

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.

 

Low calorie sweeteners don't produce food cravings

Do Regular Consumers of Low-Calorie Sweeteners Have More Sweet Cravings?

This post was written as a guest blog for SplendaLiving.com. You can read the original post here.

I have been compensated for my time by McNeil Nutritionals, LLC, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog With Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

It’s very easy to study what tastes good to an individual. All you have to do is give the person a sample of a food or drink and observe. The person’s expression often tells you instantly whether it’s a thumb up or thumb down response!

But what if you want to know whether something is going to taste good to a large number of people? That’s not so easy.

Studies on taste preferences in children and adults show there are wide interpersonal differences in what we like. Some of that is due to genetic factors that determine the number and type of taste receptors in our mouths. Taste preferences are also affected by our age, race and gender. But another big influence is what we learn about different foods before we take the first bite.

Think back to when you had your first sip of black coffee. It probably tasted quite bitter. But if everyone around you kept saying how good it was you may have learned to like it, even if it needed some cream and sugar to go down! That’s just one example of how our experiences help shape our taste preferences.

Does Eating Sweets Make Us Crave Them?

The preference for sweetness is considered a universal trait, but there are also large variations in how much of that taste each of us likes. That’s why some people look at the dessert menu before ordering their meal in a restaurant and others pass on dessert without even peeking at the choices.

There are even people who say they crave sweets. It’s possible they have a higher tolerance for the taste of sweet foods than the rest of us, or they may have learned to associate sweet tastes with other positive feelings. Either way, it is an individual response, just like the preference for black coffee. You can read more about sweet cravings here.

One question I am often asked about sweet cravings is whether the use of low calorie sweeteners, like those found in SPLENDA® Sweetener Products, can trigger such cravings since they are considered “high-intensity sweeteners.” I’ve explained why that is not the case in a previous blog, but new research provides further evidence that low-calorie sweeteners do not overstimulate the taste receptors in the mouth to make us want more sweets.

The latest study was designed to measure how untrained subjects rated the sweetness intensity of sugar, maple syrup and agave nectar compared to different strengths of the low-calorie sweeteners acesulfame potassium, rebaudioside A (stevia) and sucralose (the sweetening ingredient in SPLENDA® Sweeteners) when they were dissolved in water. The researchers found the low calorie sweeteners did not produce greater sweet sensations than the other sugars tested nor did they cause cravings. In fact, the subjects detected higher intensity sweetness from the regular sugars than the low calorie alternatives.

What about Regular Users of Low-Calorie Sweeteners?

Another study on the diets and lifestyle habits of people who are regular users of low-calorie sweeteners suggests that they do not cause cravings or overeating. Using over 10 years of data collected in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), researchers identified more than 22,000 users of low calorie sweeteners and placed them into one of four groups based on how they used the sweeteners. They then rated their diet quality using the Healthy Eating Index and evaluated other personal behaviors such as physical activity, smoking and alcohol use.

Results of this investigation showed consumers of low-calorie sweeteners have these traits compared to non-users:

  • Higher income and education
  • Higher Healthy Eating Index scores, including better scores for vegetables, whole grains, meat and beans and milk/dairy
  • Physically active
  • Less likely to smoke and drink alcohol
  • Less likely to consume solid fats and added sugars

With all the evidence on the safety and utility of low calorie sweeteners, I think it’s time to move beyond the questions about sweet cravings and overeating and ask, “How can I include them in my healthy lifestyle?”

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.
For more information on low calorie sweeteners, visit the Sugar Substitutes section of this blog.

References:

Drewnowski A, Mennella JA, Johnson SL, Bellisle F. Sweetness and Food Preferences. J Nutr. 2012; 142(6):1142S-1148Shttp://jn.nutrition.org/content/142/6/1142S.full.pdf

Antenucci A., Hayes JE. Nonnutritive Sweeteners are not supernormal stimuli. Inter J Obesity. June 10, 2014, doi:10.1038/ijo.2014.109http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24942868

SplendaTruth.com: “New Study Shows Sugar Substitutes Do Not Overstimulate the Sweet Taste Buds

Drewnowski A, Rehm CD. Consumption of Low-Calorie Sweeteners among U.S. Adults Is Associated with Higher Healthy Eating Index (HEI 2005) Scores and More Physical Activity. Nutrients 2014, 6, 4389-4403; doi:10.3390/nu6104389http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25329967

 

Sweet cravings are often a learned response to stress

How to Control Sweet Cravings with New Coping Skills

This post was written as a guest blog for SplendaLiving.com. You can read the original post here.

I have been compensated for my time by McNeil Nutritionals, LLC, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog With Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

The connection between certain foods and our emotions can be very strong. I know having carrot cake with cream cheese frosting puts the “happy” in my happy birthday celebration, but it isn’t the only way to put a smile on my face. Yet many of my clients have told me they find it difficult to cope with the ups and downs of everyday life without turning to sweet treats to lift their spirits.

If you’ve ever eaten your way through a sleeve of Girl Scout cookies to help you deal with a difficult situation, you know what I’m talking about. Whether it’s an overwhelming project at work or an extended to-do list at home, using food to “feed” your emotions can become an unhealthy habit.

The desire to eat sweets can feel so strong to some people they call it a craving. But is it really a food craving or just a long-used coping mechanism?

I’ve written about the power of perceived food cravings before. Their connection to coping mechanisms is very strong. Simply put, if we have always relied on certain foods to help us get through tough times we can feel very deprived without those foods – but that isn’t a craving. It is a learned way to cope. Unfortunately, the pleasure of eating a favorite food is short-lived, while the excess calories that go with those foods can last forever. And eating doesn’t solve the problem at hand.

What you need if you’ve become conditioned to think of food as the fix for everything that hurts are new coping skills. The goal is to learn how to deal with whatever comes your way so you can feel good about yourself for handling the task rather than giving in to sweet cravings to feel good. The more you practice these skills, the less you’ll rely on food rewards for your happiness. You’ll soon discover that nothing tastes as sweet as success!

Coping Without All the Calories

  • Have a backup plan.You need a new strategy that can be implemented in a moment’s notice to replace reaching for a treat. An easy one is to drink a 12 ounce glass of cold water and avoid eating anything for at least 30 minutes. That will give you time to deal with the problem and break down the need for instant gratification.
  • Use the escape route. When thoughts of food are distracting you, let your mind take a rest and put your body to work instead. Go for a short, brisk walk or get up and do some jumping jacks or find a stairwell and make a few trips up and down to provide a physical release for your pent-up frustrations. Getting away from the situation for a few minutes can’t hurt, and the activity just might help to clear your mind so you can see your way to a solution a little faster.
  • Reach for a lifeline. Sometimes our problems are just too big to handle on our own, especially when facing unrealistic expectations imposed by yourself or others. Knowing when it’s time to reach out for help can save both time and unnecessary stress. Focus on getting the job done using whatever resources you can rather than trying to go it alone.
  • Fortify your fortress. Keeping tempting foods out of sight can certainly make it easier to stay on task, but that doesn’t mean you can never eat something sweet. That’s where low calorie sweeteners, like SPLENDA®No Calorie Sweetener, can come in handy. Using a low calorie sweetener instead of sugar makes it possible to satisfy your sweet tooth with fewer calories as a regular part of your meal plan. Whether used in a cup of your favorite herbal tea, to flavor a Sweet and Spicy Snack Mix or make a batch of Deep Chocolate Shortbread to stash in the freezer, you can enjoy a sweet treat just because it tastes good, not because it helps you cope!

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.

 

Usrers of low calorie sweeteners have healthier diets than non-users

Sucralose Side Effects Myth: Does SPLENDA® Brand Sweetener Increase Appetite?

This post was written as a guest blog for SplendaLiving.com on November 27, 2014. You can read the original post here.

I have been compensated for my time by McNeil Nutritionals, LLC, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog With Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

It’s easy to start believing something if we hear it over and over again. That’s why advertisers use jingles that get stuck in our heads so we’ll remember their brands, and why gossip is shared as the truth after seeing it on Twitter 10 times.

Believing there is a connection between no calorie sweeteners (like sucralose, the sweetening ingredient in SPLENDA® Sweeteners), and increased appetite is another example of the power of repetition. You may have heard that claim several times, but is it really true? There’s some new research about regular users of low calorie sweeteners that should help change your mind on the subject for good!

Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), researchers from Washington State University created a profile of the diets and lifestyle of regular consumers of low calorie sweeteners. What they found indicates that the people who use them also make many other smart choices to maintain their health and a healthy body weight. What they did not find was any indication that users of low calorie sweeteners have increased appetites or a tendency to overeat.

While I have written about the factors that influence appetite and cravings before, this new research provides further evidence that low calorie sweeteners are a helpful tool for people who want to enjoy sweet tasting foods and beverages, but without all the calories of sugar. So if you have an appetite for something sweet, you should not hesitate to keep using SPLENDA® Sweetener Products!

Here’s what researchers Adam Drewnowski and Colin Rehm discovered after analyzing NHANES data from 1999-2008 for nearly 22,000 adults.

  • 30% reported using some type of low calorie sweetener, either in a tabletop form or in foods or beverages
  • Based on scores from the Healthy Eating Index, consumers of low calorie sweeteners have better quality diets with more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, meat/beans, diary and oil than non-users
  • Consumers of low calorie sweeteners are less likely to smoke than non-users
  • Consumers of low calorie sweeteners are more likely to engage in physical activity than non-users
  • Consumers of low calorie sweeteners are more likely to be trying to lose or not gain weight than non-users

You can find more fascinating facts about users of low calorie sweeteners on this Infographic.

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.

For more information:

Drewnowski, A., Rehm, C. Consumption of Low-Calorie Sweeteners among U.S. Adults Is Associated with Higher Healthy Eating Index (HEI 2005) Scores and More Physical Activity. Nutrients 2014, 6, 4389-4403; doi:10.3390/nu6104389

Food Insight: New Studies Support Use of Low-Calorie Sweeteners for Weight Management
 

Abuse of the word addiction may explain why some people believe they have food addiction

Popular Diet News: Do You Have a Food Addiction?

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, so the post has been reproduced here.

ABUSE OF THE WORD ADDICTION MAY EXPLAIN WHY SOME PEOPLE BELIEVE THEY HAVE FOOD ADDICTION

When I saw the advertisement for a shampoo that said you would become “addicted” to it because it made your hair so silky, I knew things had gone too far. Can we really become addicted to shampoo? What about food addictions and addictions to texting, tanning, video games, the Internet, cosmetic surgery, shoes? If you believe the latest headlines, those things all have the power to turn us into addicts.

While I doubt that using the same shampoo everyday can do any harm, abuse of the term addiction can.

In my 30+ years in practice as a Registered Dietitian I’ve had many clients tell me they believed they were addicted to certain foods. Those foods were the same ones everyone else ate, but somehow they got hooked. These people couldn’t just eat a normal portion. They obsessed over the food, kept secret stashes of it and felt guilty after eating it, usually in large quantities.

The one thing these people all had in common was a feeling of helplessness once they labeled their problem an addiction. I often wondered how they would fare if they simply said they really “liked” the food?

Finding Another Word for Addiction

There is little agreement in the medical community about whether you can actually have a food addiction. When you compare it to an addiction to heroin, it seems trivial to even ask. But as in the example of the shampoo ad, I think the real problem is that the word addiction is being used too casually.

What people mean when they say they are addicted to chocolate, potato chips or pizza is that it tastes really good to them and when they eat it they want to eat more of it. That is not evidence of an addiction. If you eat more chocolate than you should, that may be a sign of emotional eating or compulsive overeating or a problem with impulse control. Or it may be nothing more than a craving.

The definition of addiction used by the American Society of Addiction Medicine states it is a chronic disease with biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. There are a lot of chocolate lovers in the world, but they don’t all have a chronic disease. In fact, when it comes to so called food addictions, it’s interesting to note that only some people are affected. There are significant gender and cultural differences in what becomes an addictive food. That is not the case with alcohol, nicotine or opium.

I understand that it is very difficult for some people to control their consumption of certain foods. Their genes, brain chemistry, and personality may predispose them to becoming dependent on certain substances or behaviors. But when it comes to food, it just may be a question of too much of a good thing.

If you think you are addicted to a food, try to reframe the way you think about it, starting with the language you use. You’ll enjoy that chocolate much more if you focus on how much you love the taste while eating it, rather than fearing you won’t be able to stop eating it because you’re addicted to it.

If someone offered you a million dollars to never eat your “favorite” food again, could you do it?

Low calorie sweeteners can help you enjoy the sweet life and control your cravings

Low-Calorie Sweeteners and Sweet Cravings

This post was written as a guest blog for Splenda Living. You can read the original post here.

LEARN HOW TO SATISFY YOUR SWEET CRAVINGS WITH LOW CALORIE SWEETENERS

I have been compensated for my time by McNeil Nutritionals, LLC, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog With Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

Have you ever wished we lived in a world where you could eat whatever you wanted and not have to worry about gaining weight or getting sick? If you have, you’re not alone. Sadly, until that distant planet is discovered we have to pay attention to what and how much we eat to stay healthy here on earth.

But that doesn’t mean we can never have the foods we crave. I know I wouldn’t want to live in a world where I couldn’t enjoy a warm chocolate chip cookie once in a while.

PLEASE PASS THE CHOCOLATE

Anyone who has had an intense desire to eat a certain food has experienced a food craving. What separates a craving from hunger is the desire for a very specific food, while almost any food can satisfy hunger.

If this sounds familiar to you, then you can count yourself among the 97% of us who have had food cravings. Studies show women report more of them than men, and the frequency, strength and types of foods women crave are different, too. But the one food more of us crave than any other is chocolate!

ICE CREAM AND BOO BOOS

As common as they are, the reasons behind food cravings are poorly understood. One popular theory is that we learn to associate certain foods with positive feelings early in life, such as getting an ice cream cone after we skin our knee.

Eating ice cream after a fall probably did help us forget about our boo-boos when we were children. Unfortunately, the more the connection was reinforced between special foods and feeling better, the harder it became to break. That is why so many adults still deal with all types of discomfort, both physical and emotional, by eating foods they crave.

SATISFYING OUR SWEET TOOTH WITH SPLENDA® SWEETENER

Other theories about what trigger food cravings include meal monotony, rigid food restrictions and nutritional imbalances. Is it any wonder why weight loss diets are so hard to stick to? They’re often boring, unpalatable and incomplete, so our food cravings get the best of us.

If your food cravings lead you to something sweet, there is a way to satisfy that desire and still keep your calories under control. Using a no cal sweetener, such as SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, in place of sugar lets us have the sweet taste we want without all the calories.

And despite what you may have read somewhere on the Internet, there is nothing in SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, or any other low calorie sweetener, that will increase or extend our desire for sweets. I know there have been some of contradictory studies on this topic covered in the media, which can be confusing. However, the scientific evidence points in the opposite direction by showing that low cal sweeteners do not stimulate appetite or food intake and don’t cause weight gain. One of their biggest advantages is how they can help reduce caloric intake and consequently body weight.

Of course, we still have to pay attention to what triggers our food cravings and how we deal with them, but we don’t have to completely avoid all the foods we crave. Sometimes we may just need to take a smaller portion and savor every bite to feel satisfied.

MAKING EVERY DAY A LITTLE SWEETER

To help keep my sweet tooth in check I start my day with a delicious breakfast parfait made by sprinkling SPLENDA® Sweetener on some high-fiber cereal and plain yogurt layered with fresh berries. Later in the day I whirl SPLENDA® into a frothy iced latte made with fat free milk for the perfect afternoon pick-me up. And when I really want to have a chocolate chip cookie, I know I can take one from my freezer, made using a SPLENDA® recipe, and warm it up for a few seconds in the microwave oven for a sweet treat.

I am a firm believer in practicing what I preach. That’s why I am confident in providing this sensible nutrition advice: By including foods and beverages made with low calorie sweeteners in our daily diets we can enjoy the sweet taste we love, but with fewer calories. It’s almost like living in a perfect world!

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.