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Last week we looked at what we really know about artificial sweeteners and the seven substitutes that have been approved by the FDA.
In part two we will be looking at:
- What are the dangers?
- What are my options?
What are the Dangers?
Now that we’ve gone through what the seven FDA-approved sugar substitutes are, it’s time to look at the dangers of using them. There are some sugar substitutes that you will want to avoid as much as possible. You should avoid using artificial sweeteners like Saccharin, Sucralose, Aspartame, Neotame, and Acesulfame.
While they provide the sweetness of sugar without the surge of glucose, insulin, or calories, these chemical concoctions are likely to prevent you from reaching your weight-loss goals, and they have been connected to quite a few side effects. Studies have shown that in addition to side effects that could endanger your health, artificial sweeteners have been shown to have a negative impact on weight loss especially for those who have had bariatric surgery.
One of the most common side effects of using artificial sweeteners is an increase in digestive issues including abdominal swelling, diarrhea, and discomfort. Other issues that have been attributed to artificial sweeteners are a lower immune system, lower energy levels, the reduction of good bacteria in the gut, and skin issues.
Less common but even more damaging side effects include migraines, seizures, hallucinations, enlarged liver and kidneys, and even brain tumors. At high temperatures, some of the artificial sweeteners, including sucralose, may break down and create harmful substances that could increase your risk of cancer.
Even using natural artificial sweeteners, such as stevia and erythritol, can cause some unpleasant side effects. Stevia has been shown to affect blood pressure and diabetes medications, and many people who are allergic to ragweed may also have an allergic reaction to stevia. Erythritol, like most sugar alcohols, can cause digestive distress because the body does not fully absorb the sugar alcohol. Erythritol does seem to cause fewer of these digestive issues compared to other sugar alcohols. It is still important to make a note of any side effects that you encounter while using artificial sweeteners.
What are my options?
OK, so now that you know all the horrible side effects, what are your options?
As with everything after bariatric surgery, moderation is key. It would be considered a form of torture and quite frankly unsustainable to expect people to cut out sugar entirely from their diet. The most important thing is to not overdo it with sugar after bariatric surgery. This includes sugar substitutes as well.
You will not really be able to avoid artificial sweeteners, especially right after bariatric surgery. Most protein shakes contain some form of artificial sweeteners. You should do what you can to minimize the amount that you’re having especially right after surgery. Long-term success after bariatric surgery requires a combination of factors with the most important being what we eat. If you are going to be using artificial sweeteners, choose the one that has the least amount of side effects for you, and remember that less is always better.
Using natural artificial sweeteners such as Stevia and Erythritol has been shown to have less severe side effects than chemically created artificial sweeteners. Most of the side effects come into play when you have consumed more than the recommended amount. I’m sure most of you have read the reviews on Amazon for Sugar-Free Gummy Bears. All artificial sweeteners should be taken with caution. When possible you should substitute natural artificial sweeteners for the chemically created sweeteners in your food.
There is a place for artificial sweeteners in a healthy diet. However, it is important that we reduce our dependence on them. Speaking to your surgeon about which sugar substitute is best for you is the smartest course of action. Ultimately, you will want to choose one that tastes good to you, will satisfy your craving for sugar with the least amount of side effects, and will help you succeed with long-term weight loss after bariatric surgery.