Many of my patients want to lose weight, either before surgery or after surgery. Many even want me to do it for them in surgery! In addition to diet, exercise, and lap band or gastric bypass surgery, many of them also use artificial sweeteners. What is the truth about artificial sweeteners? It’s a billion dollar business with a variety of products vying for 1st place such as Splenda, Equal, NutraSweet, Sweet ‘n Low, and Stevia. Although much has been written about the topic, misinformation still abounds. New Beauty.com featured a helpful article on 5 myths about artificial sweeteners on April 13, 2012. Let’s have a look at these.

1. Artificial Sweeteners cause cancer – False – According to New York City nutritionist, Tanya Zuckerbrot, there is no scientific evidence that any of the artificial sweeteners approved for use in the United States causes any health problems. The ones that the Food and Drug Administration considers safe and rates as GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) include Aspartame = Equal & NutraSweet,; Saccharin= Sweet ‘n Low; Sucralose = Splenda; and Stevia.

2. Artificial Sweeteners don’t add any health benefits – False – In addition to allowing you to cut calories and thus promote weight loss, sugar substitutes are tooth-friendly in that they are not fermented by the bacteria in dental plaque so that tooth decay is reduced. Furthermore they do not promote the high output of insulin that glucose causes and which can be harmful in people with reactive hypoglycemia and others who may be prone to diabetes or heart disease.

3. Artificial Sweeteners will help control your sweet tooth – False – Artificial sweeteners are many times sweeter than sugar, some being over 1000 times sweeter! If anything, artificial sweeteners accustom you to a much sweeter taste. In some people, this leads to a chronic craving for sweets that can lead to a loss of control when it comes to sweet consumption!

4. Diet drinks sweetened with artificial sweeteners will help you lose weight – False – Ms. Zuckerbrot quotes a University of Texas study that found that people who drink diet soft drinks have a 10% greater risk of obesity than those drinking regular soft drinks. This may be due to a tendency to let up on their dietary discipline when they know they aren’t getting the calories in their drink. They may say, “I drink Diet Coke so I can now have an entire bag of Krispy Kreme Donuts!”

5. Regular sugar is better than artificial sweeteners – False – Although a teaspoon of sugar only contains 15 calories, there are many teaspoons of sugar in the diets of many Americans. A 12 ounce bottle of regular soda contains 180 calories. 3500 calories result in a one pound weight gain, so if you’re trying to control your weight, consider artificial sweeteners!

Should you have any questions, please contact my office.

George Sanders, M.D.