Written by Novoa’s Clinical Nutritionist, Tayla Hirsch

Artificial sweeteners, also called non-nutritive sweeteners are commonly construed as a “healthier” substitute for sugar, however artificial sweeteners ingestion does not come without health risks or concerns. Common artificial sweeteners include aspartamesucralose, and saccharine, providing more intense sweetness and zero to a few calories per gram. These are found in diet soft drinks, sugar-free snacks, chewing gum, sauces, salad dressings and more. 

Cardiovascular Outcomes

A population based study undertaken in France with over 100,000 participants found associations between higher artificial sweetener intakes and an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. Aspartame intake was associated with an increased risk of cerebrovascular events, and sucralose was associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease. 

Gut Integrity Outcomes

Studies have indicated an association between artificial sweetener consumption, specifically aspartame, and permeability across the intestinal epithelium, which is the single cell layer forming the lining of both the small and large intestine of the gastrointestinal tract. Increased permeability allows materials including toxins to translocate into the bloodstream from the gastrointestinal tract, referred to as leaky gut. Untreated leaky gut contributes to the development of chronic systemic inflammation, and a range of adverse gastrointestinal signs and symptoms. 

Nervous System Outcomes

Aspartame has been linked to behavioural and cognitive problems. Symptoms reported include headache, migraine, seizure, anxiety, irritable mood, depression and insomnia. Aspartame increases levels of phenylalanine and aspartic acid in the brain, which can inhibit the synthesis and release of important neurotransmitters including dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters are important for a range of bodily functions including movement, motivation, memory, control of mood and happiness, regulation of sleep and wake, and the fight or flight response. Aspartame has also been indicated to elevate plasma cortisol (stress hormone) levels, causing the production of excess free radicals, which can damage brain cell structures and cause cell death, exposing the host to adverse effects on neurobehavioral health.

If you’re concerned about reducing your sugar intake, consume a diet rich in whole foods and limit your processed food intake. This eradicates any concern of an overconsumption of refined sugar, and reduces the need to find sugar-substitutes. 

Book a consultation with Tayla here.