CLEVELAND – As a kid, you were probably told to eat less sugar.
So as adults, we often reach for sugar substitutes, in the hopes that they will be a little healthier.
But, according to a recent study, artificial sweeteners can actually increase our health risks.
“Whether you are choosing something that has real sugar, artificial sweeteners, or even a plant-based sweetener that has no calories; it’s still turning on the center of your brain and training your brain to want more sweet things,” said Lindsay Malone, RD, of Cleveland Clinic, who did not take part in the study.
The study looked at data on 81,714 women between the ages of 50-79.
Researchers found that drinking artificially sweetened beverages was associated with an increased risk of stroke, heart disease, and even death.
Women who drank two or more diet drinks a day had a 23 percent increase in stroke risk when compared with women who drank diet drinks less than once per week.
Malone said artificial sweeteners change our gut bacteria, among other things.
“Sugar, in general, promotes an increase in your personal blood sugar, as well as spikes in insulin,” she said. “All of these things combined can contribute to excess weight gain – particularly fat, and also inflammation.”
Malone said it’s also important to keep in mind that artificial sweeteners tend to be hundreds of times sweeter than regular sugar.
Consuming artificial sweeteners sets the bar really high for your pallet, and encourages your taste buds to keep going for something sweeter and sweeter each time.
Malone said a good way to gauge whether your diet is too sweet is to see if fruits like apples and strawberries taste sweet to you.
If the answer is ‘no,’ you should work on lowering the ‘sweet threshold’ of your pallet.
“Work on cutting in half what you’re doing right now and continue to cut it in half until you’re not using any sweeteners,” she said. “Consider limiting your sugar to just on a special occasion, or in a baked good enjoyed in moderation.”
Complete results of the study can be found in Stroke.
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