Do Artificial Sweeteners Influence Hormones and Health?
Hormonal Responses to Artificial Sweeteners and Diet Soda
Artificial sweeteners are synthetic sugar substitutes. These sweeteners are found in various food and beverages, including diet soda, baked goods, and processed foods. Artificial sweeteners are often conveniently packaged to be added to food and drinks. Food and drinks containing artificial sweeteners may be marked “sugar-free” or “diet.”
Artificial sweeteners gained favor as a way to decrease calorie intake by eliminating sugar in foods. We thought reducing calories in things like soda would help people lose weight. Additionally, artificial sweeteners don’t contribute to tooth decay and cavities. But these advantages come with a price.
Types of artificial sweeteners
Examples of artificial sweeteners you may find in diet soda and foods or packets include:
- Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet)
- Saccharin (Sweet’N Low)
- Sucralose (Splenda)
- Acesulfame K (Sunett)
The impact of artificial sweeteners
When you consume an artificial sweetener, your body is tricked. The sweet taste tells your body that it is consuming food that should satisfy hunger signals, but because of the lack of calories from the sweetener, that doesn’t happen. Your body still responds by releasing a hormone called glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) that tells your body to release the hormone insulin and process what you just ate. You still feel hungry because you didn’t get the calories your body expected. Because your hunger signals have not been satisfied, you tend to overeat to satisfy these signals. Research has shown that rather than helping with weight loss, using artificial sweeteners, especially in diet soda, contributes to weight gain and the development of diabetes.
Artificial sweeteners affect your gut health. The microflora or good bacteria in your gut are altered by artificial sweeteners. This is important because your gut bacteria help regulate estrogen levels. Changes in estrogen levels may contribute to problems such as:
- Metabolic syndrome
- Endometrial hyperplasia
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Cardiovascular disease
- Cognitive function
Should I switch to regular soda?
Because of their effects, the best practice is to avoid artificial sweeteners as much as possible. But that doesn’t mean you should trade your diet soda for a regular one. One can of regular soda contains 10-11 teaspoons of sugar. The American Heart Association recommends women consume less than seven teaspoons daily and men consume less than ten teaspoons. Regular sugars also contribute to heart disease, diabetes, obesity, inflammation, and hormonal imbalance.
If you’ve been a diet soda drinker, it’s not too late to change your ways. Gradually cutting back on diet soda and replacing it with water is your most healthy option. You’ll also want to take measures to replace the good bacteria in your gut. Our Vitality Aesthetic and Regenerative Medicine specialists can help you with a supplement program to address nutritional deficiencies or gut problems. In addition, we can address metabolic concerns like being overweight or obese and any symptoms of hormone imbalance.
It may surprise you how much better you look and feel once you kick the diet soda habit!