I doubt anyone would think that a Naturopath – a person who promotes natural approaches to health – would encourage something artificial. The very nature of artificial sweeteners is just that – something not natural. My general perspective is that I am concerned that the scientific evidence on the safety of artificial sweeteners is inconclusive. Much of the research into artificial sweeteners has been conducted, or paid for, by the companies that have the right to produce the substance. Research is generally old, incomplete, conducted on animals and difficult to source.
Food regulators have established an ‘acceptable daily intake’ (ADI) for artificial sweeteners – this is the amount they consider to be safe to consume, per kilogram of body weight, every day, over your lifetime. The problem with this is that it is based on animal studies, and perhaps more concerning is the fact that the amounts of artificial sweeteners in a food do not have to be declared on the label. This means you would have no way of knowing whether you were exceeding the ADI or not. In addition, when you combine artificial sweeteners together the combination can become toxic. This is especially concerning as regulatory authorities, such as ANZFA, do not require toxicity testing of combinations of artificial sweeteners before they are approved for use, only of the individual sweeteners.
There is a lack of evidence that artificially sweetened foods actually assist with weight loss, so it is misleading to promote these foods in this way. One study over 7 years found that those that used artificial sweeteners gained 50% more weight than those that didn’t. Some researchers think that people mistakenly think that ‘diet’ products means they can eat or drink more of it so people overcompensate, whilst other theories suggest that diet products (especially diet drinks or chewing gum) actually make you hungry.
Sugar is a natural substance that we can enjoy in moderation. Just because something has less calories does not mean it is without potential harm. Artificial sweeteners are not a magic alternative