September 28, 2009

Sugar VS Artificial Sweeteners

The question was sure to come up …

… what about calorie free sweeteners?  Stevia, sucralose, and the rest of the bunch?

Are they a better option than calorie containing sugar options when trying to lose weight and burn belly fat?

Let’s delve into them a bit and discuss some of the realities and myths with calorie free sweeteners.

First, when I say “artificial sweetener” what am I talking about?  There are a bunch, but the most commonly used are Acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), Sucralose, Saccharin,  and Aspartame.


And then there’s this “new” guy on the scene, Stevia (it’s not artificial, but it IS a sweetener).

And each of the artificial sweeteners has an “acceptable daily intake” (ADI) – meaning according to the FDA, you should not consume MORE than the amounts listed below per day.

* Aspartame (Nutrasweet, Equal) = 18-19 cans of diet cola
* Saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low) = 9 to 12 packets
* Acesulfame K (Sunett, Sweet One) = 30-32 cans diet lemon-lime soda
* Sucralose (Splenda) = 6 cans diet cola

Fair enough?  Now depending on who you talk to, or what you read, you’ll hear all different opinions – “I only use sucralose, because xxxx” or “stevia is natural, so I use that…”

If you look at the values above, you may notice that according to the ADIs, the max for Splenda is just 6 cans of diet cola/day, whereas Equal is 18-19 cans.  Does that mean Splenda is more of a concern than Equal?  It might.

But as a side note, if you’re drinking THAT many diet colas/day, your diet needs an overhaul as there are absolutely zero positive qualities to diet colas (or any diet soda for that matter).
Let’s cover a few of these in more detail.

Sucralose (Splenda):


While this one has received safety approval from the FDA, it’s surely not without controversy.  Picking sides with this is like jumping in to the Health Care Reform debate!

But I’m ready to go for it.

First, the upside of Sucralose:

* it has virtually no aftertaste
* it’s stable when heated so you can cook and bake with it
* it’s stable at different acidities (pHs) so it can be added to things like lemon juice without affecting its sweetness
* it has a proven track record of safety in many research studies.


* anecdotally (meaning personal stories) have tied intake to migraine headaches
* may affect healthy bacteria in the gut, according to animal data
* it may cause weight gain?

This last one is a bit more controversial.  In a nutshell, one study using rats fed them different quantities of sucralose.  At the end of the 24 week study, the rats consuming sucralose gained weight compared to the ones that didn’t take any in.


Weird.  Zero calories, how can it cause dangerous belly fat to creep up on us?

I will say at this time I’m not impressed with the data showing artificial sweeteners cause us to gain belly fat … I clearly need to see more research to support this theory. The thought was that while artificial sweeteners themselves don’t have calories, they “trick” the body into craving more sweet foods…

…voila, belly fat and overall weight gain is through the roof.

It’s correlation data, but if I remember anything from statistics, it’s that correlation doesn’t mean causation.  In a nutshell, the correlation that those who used diet soda weighed more doesn’t mean the diet soda itself caused them to gain weight.  More research clearly needs to expore this.  Keep in mind, also, that the doses used in this particular study were very high if we tried to extrapolate these findings to humans.  At this point I just don’t buy into that conclusions of this data and am surely calling for more.

Again, another red flag for me here is that the “maximum” recommendation is 6 cans of diet cola – for some, that’s a ton, but for others, that’s breakfast.  Regulate your intake!

Aspartame (Nutrasweet, Equal):

You’ve seen the little pink packets … pink packets of poison, according to some.  Like the others, this has the stamp of approval from the FDA.  But opponents of this suggest it causes migraines, causes cancer,brain tumors, and evil belly fat.

Like the others, the research is mixed – some studies show a negative effect, others show a positive effect.

I hate to give the “more research is necessary” answer, but, well, it’s the best answer to give.

I talked about my feelings on the weight gain and artificial sweeteners with sucralose.

As for cancer – it’s a hard one to pin down.  These data are all done in animals, usually given very high doses, to see what happens.


For some reason the review boards look very unfavorably at loading up humans with artificial sweeteners and seeing if they cause cancer; therefore, we’re reliant on animal data.  But even if there is that chance, that concerns me … stamp of appro

I don’t like the idea of artificial … I don’t want artificial ingredients in my body and try to limit them as much as possible.  I do that by knowing what I’m eating, being able to pronounce all ingredients, and eating foods as close to the earth as possible.


With that said, I AM supportive of making the transition to calorie free drinks if someone is a regular soft drink (or juice, or sweetened tea) drinker …

…For example, a former client started our relationship with regular stops at 7-11 for Big Gulps, where regular coke was his product of choice.  Several times a day – he drank 3,000 calories EACH day in soda alone.

Would he benefit from switching to diet soda?  For sure!  And he did, greatly.

And overtime I got him to drink less and less diet soda as well, as 1 case each day of that is surely not great for you.


But as a whole, sweeteners aren’t my favorite.

I also have yet to find one without an off flavor.  Call my crazy, but I want to eat a food that, well, tastes like food – not have some bitter aftertaste that’s CLOSE to being real, but not quite there.

I’d personally rather have a REAL sweetener, infrequently.  Moderation.  That’s a very unsexy word in marketing and the media, but it’s true.

You want a cookie?

Eat a cookie – occasionally.


Is a fat free, sugar free, calorie free flavored chocolate chunk piece of cardboard REALLY going to help out your desire for a cookie?

Not a chance.

Eat the real thing, on occasion, then get over it.  Fair enough?

Eating real foods is what will help you live as healthfully as possible, burn belly fat, and look and feel great!


Dr. Saman Bakhtiar is weight loss and fitness expert.

He is truly concerned about each of his clients.

Check out the great results here!

Montclair Personal Training

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Comments on Sugar VS Artificial Sweeteners »

September 29, 2009

Diana Quezada @ 10:59 am

Great article, couldn’t agree more…!!

Robyn Mancell @ 11:06 am

I stopped using all artificial sweetners two months ago and I lost 20 lbs. I was working out for over an hour for years and could not lose the weight. As soon as I stopped usisng the artificial sweetners and continued with my workout, I lost the weight and actually work out less.

Dr. Saman @ 5:48 pm

Wow Robyn,
That is great. Thank you for sharing that.

Naomi Joyce @ 11:31 am

Now Sam I like that one! If you want the cookie eat the cookie (singular) not COOKIES!!( the whole bag).
I remember craving a coke but,I did not want the sugar or calories. My co-workers kept telling to just drink the Coke. I refused and went the whole day eating everthing else… chocolate, vanilla latte, cookies etc… and I still wanted that Coke! By the end of the day what did I drink? You guessed it the COKE! So, I agree with you Sam. Eat what you are craving occasionally and in moderation. Than get over it!!! Trust me, it will save you in the end!

Have a Blessed Day!

Beautiful Baby & Love your Blogs!!

yoda @ 12:54 pm

Why was stevia mentioned so briefly? I agree that between artificial sweeteners and sugar, sugar, with all it’s problems, is by far better for the body. Stevia, however, is the best. The health benefits are well-documented. Not all stevia has the nasty aftertaste. My stevia of choice, SweetLeaf, only has pure water touch the leaves during extraction, so the taste of the leaf remains, while other brands use chemicals during extraction, which results in the aftertaste. SweetLeaf Stevia is the only brand or sweetener that has 0 calories, 0 carbs, AND a 0 glycemic index. In its whole-leaf forms stevia nourishes the pancreas and helps balance blood sugar levels. Stevia concentrate is often used in South America to help control diabetes, but it is important that blood sugar levels are monitored because some diabetics have reported a rapid decrease of their blood sugar levels. It has been documented that diabetics can use most forms of stevia without restriction.

Dr. Saman @ 5:47 pm

Hello Yoda,

I have mentioned Stevia already in this blog post:

Thank you for commenting and I truly appreciate your feedback and information.
I am meeting next week with Dr. Unger (top metabolic doctor) to discuss this topic
and get his opinion on all this.

dee @ 7:13 pm

Just wanted to mention to those interested to look out for a new product coming soon. Did anyone see the commercial? Its sweetner 5 calorie packets made of half pure cane sugar and half stevia. I believe the name is Sun Crystals. Hopefully they will stay true to their word and keep it clean and natural..though its hard to believe they would finally accept an herb as a sweetner in this country! 🙂

Amber Montenegro @ 7:15 pm

Thanks for the info, Sam. I too am not fond of artificial sweetners. I stopped eating things that contained them when I was pregnant. I gave up sodas years ago too. Now I have one a month at the most. I do enjoy my sweets and try to moderate them. I do that by buying things that I don’t like very much then I am less inclined to eat them. As you noted in your blog…when you consume the artificial sweetners your body craves more and my body craves too much as it is!

September 30, 2009

Briana Adams @ 11:33 am

Thank you for sharing this information with your readers!

I wanted to recommend our new all natural zero calorie sweetener, ZSweet®. ZSweet® contains NO artificial ingredients and is created through a natural fermentation process, not a laboratory.

ZSweet® is zero calories, zero net-carbs, zero glycemic impact, vegan, kosher, gluten-free, GMO-free, doesn’t promote tooth decay or candida growth and comes in two versions, a granular sugar-like blend and supersweet packets, depending on your preference.

Your readers can find it at Whole Foods Markets nationwide.

October 2, 2009

Bobbi Jo @ 9:09 pm

What a great strait to the point article. Thank you for all the information. Sweet baby girl in your arms.
Hugs, Bobbi Jo

August 7, 2010

Shawna Kaminski @ 8:25 am

Great post Sam. Who wants to hear about moderation and self control? Very unsexy indeed, but the key to weight loss success. Thanks for the info.

Dr. Saman @ 8:34 am

Thank you Shawna. That’s a huge compliment coming from you