What Are the Dangers of Artificial Sweeteners?

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform summary of "The Plant Paradox" by Steven R. Gundry. Shortform has the world's best summaries of books you should be reading.

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What are the dangers of artificial sweeteners? How serious are these threats?

The dangers of artificial sweeteners are based on studies of their impacts. There is some disagreement about the volume of required to see the dangers of artificial sweeteners come true in humans.

Read on to learn about the dangers of artificial sweeteners.

What Are the Possible Dangers of Artificial Sweeteners?

Although you may reach for a diet soda to avoid weight gain, the artificial sweeteners it contains actually cause you to gain weight. There are dangers of artificial sweeteners, including

  • Sucralose (e.g. Splenda)
  • Saccharine (e.g. Sweet’n Low, Sweet Twin, Necta Sweet)
  • Aspartame (e.g. Equal and NutraSweet)
  • Acesulfame K (also in Equal and NutraSweet)
  • Neotame (used in commercial baking and cooking)

Before supermarkets and mass food distribution made sweet fruit available year-round, humans only ate sweet fruit in the summer. When your tongue detects anything sweet—whether it’s from sugar, fruit, or sweeteners—your brain concludes it must be summer, which cues your body to store fat for the winter. This has several harmful effects on your body. 

  1. Your body not only goes into fat-storing mode, but it also craves more sweets. Humans, like many animals, evolved to stock up on fat during summer to prepare for winter, when food is more scarce, so you’re wired to eat as much sweet stuff—and get as many calories—as possible. This is how sweeteners make you crave sugar and ultimately gain weight. That’s one of the dangers of artificial sweeteners.
  2. Your brain feels cheated when it realizes you haven’t gotten the calories from the sugar it expected, so it pushes you to eat even more sweets. 
  3. Your body’s circadian rhythms are thrown off because your food choices indicate you’re living in an endless summer. 

In addition, sweeteners kill some of the good bacteria in your holobiome, which allows for bad bacteria to run rampant. In fact, a study showed that one Splenda packet destroys half of your natural gut microbes. (Shortform note: The study gave rats high doses of Splenda. In order to have substantial negative effects on a human’s microbiome, she would have to consume hundreds of Splenda packets or over 100 cans of diet soda per day.)

Sweetener Alternatives

There are several alternatives you can use to avoid the dangers of artificial sweeteners. But beware: While these are better for your holobiome, any sweet taste will prompt your body’s fat-storage response: 

  • Stevia (e.g. SweetLeaf)
  • Just Like Sugar 
  • Sugar alcohols xylitol or erythritol (e.g. Swerve)
  • Yacón syrup
  • Inulin 

Remember that any time your body detects sweetness (even if it’s fruit or sugar-free artificial sweeteners), it reacts the same way—by storing fat. There are only a few fruits that won’t have this effect: 

  • Unripe bananas
  • Unripe mangoes
  • Unripe papayas
  • Avocados

Use Supplements Instead of Artificial Sweeteners

Sugar blockers: Even when you cut out sugar and fruits, you’ll still be consuming sugar in the form of carbs and other foods—there’s no avoiding sugar entirely. To help your body handle the sugar, take a combination of these supplements:

  • Berberine
  • Chromium
  • Cinnamon bark extract
  • Selenium
  • Turmeric extract (with black pepper extract to help absorption)
  • Zinc
  • GundryMD Glucose Defense (created by the author; contains a blend of these.)

Resistant Starches: Alternative Carbs

There is a subset of starches called resistant starches—such as yams, taro, and plantains—that don’t have the fattening, disease-inducing effects of corn, rice, wheat, and other starches. Resistant starches don’t get broken down into glucose (blood sugar), but instead pass through the small intestine intact. 

Since resistant starches don’t become sugar, your body doesn’t release fat-storing insulin. Furthermore, resistant starches nourish and increase the amount of good gut microbes, which has multiple benefits:

  • Helping digestion and nutrient absorption
  • Nurturing the mucous layer in your gut, which helps prevent lectins from breaching the intestinal wall

Resistant starches also help control weight gain by:

  • Reducing calorie intake when you substitute them for wheat flour and other carbs
  • Helping you feel full longer
  • Promoting fat burning and minimizing fat storage
What Are the Dangers of Artificial Sweeteners?

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best summary of Steven R. Gundry's "The Plant Paradox" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full The Plant Paradox summary:

  • Why eating more vegetables isn't enough, and why some vegetables are toxic to your body
  • The science behind lectins and how they tear apart your body, making you fat and sick
  • The 6-week program to get your body back on healthy grack

Rina Shah

An avid reader for as long as she can remember, Rina’s love for books began with The Boxcar Children. Her penchant for always having a book nearby has never faded, though her reading tastes have since evolved. Rina reads around 100 books every year, with a fairly even split between fiction and non-fiction. Her favorite genres are memoirs, public health, and locked room mysteries. As an attorney, Rina can’t help analyzing and deconstructing arguments in any book she reads.

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