I hate artificial sweeteners, all of them. I hate the taste. I worry about the long term health implications. I hate how prominent they’ve become, where you have to read the ingredients because many labels do not explicitly call out that they contain fake sugar. I find fake sugar incredibly insidious and devious, promising something for nothing. But there is a price to pay.
In addition to the common health, taste, and social issues, I have some general philosophical oppositions to fake sugar.
Fake sugar is dishonest and counter-productive.
It’s like cheating on a test. You get the short term benefit of getting the grade or the “full” flavor of a soda, but it’s empty, and you haven’t addressed the underlying issues.
Fake sugar changes your body’s metabolism
Most people don’t realize it changes the way your body naturally responds to sweet taste. With artificial sweeteners, your body gets sweet taste, but no calories with it. So your body produces enzymes expecting calories, but then doesn’t use them. Eventually it stops producing the enzymes, stops processing real sugar as well, and doesn’t tell you you’re full when you do have real sugar. Plus, research has shown that diet drinks can actually hinder weight loss.
Fake sugar promotes sweeter flavors in all foods
Adding fake sugar to everything from drinks to yogurt reinforces the sweet tooth and creates and expectation for everything to be sweet. Almost everything in the US is twice as sweet as I like, so I always prefer to mix it with the plain version, whether it means mixing equal parts of Gatorade with plain water, or flavored yogurt with plain yogurt.
Fake sugar supports a broken diet culture
The consumption of fake sugar is representative of the larger problem with our Diet Culture. As a nation, the US has one of the highest obesity rates, and simultaneously the most active “diet” culture, with new fads coming out monthly, dedicated “diet” food and clubs, and a not-insignificant subset of the population permanently in “diet” mode.
The uncomfortable truth and the irony of consumption patterns
Without making any judgements, think about who consumes diet food and beverages. Do you notice any patterns? I have found in my non-scientific observation of friends, acquaintances and general public that there is an inverse correlation between consumption of diet drinks and food and body size. Is that ironic? Or logical?
The Exception to the Rule – Diabetes
There is one glaring exception to my tirade against artificial sweeteners, and that is diabetes. Artificial sweeteners have changed the lives of millions of diabetics for the better. But are we making the longer term problem worse by creating far more diabetics with our continued reinforcement of the sweet taste?
Be disciplined, train yourself to like things that are less sweet, account for all your calories honestly, and just eat less if you’re worried about weight and health. I can write a whole post about that as well.