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Are sugar substitutes worse than the real thing?
April 27th, 2012
07:21 AM ET

Are sugar substitutes worse than the real thing?

Sweet tooth? You’re not alone. Sugary foods and beverages are delicious. But we’ve also learned they can be highly addictive and, too much of them, can take a serious toll on our health.

Today some of our favorite drinks, gum, baked goods, and candy are available in sugar-free versions. But that got me thinking...  are sugar substitutes any better for you than the real thing? I was not alone on this issue. I’ve received dozens of tweets and emails wondering if fake sugar can harm us, or worse, crave more food!

For some answers I turned to internist and physician nutrition specialist, Dr. Melina Jampolis. Her specialty is practiced by only 200 physicians in the United States. She focuses exclusively on nutrition for weight loss and disease prevention and treatment.

  • CNN: First of all – are all sugar substitutes pretty much the same?

Dr. Jampolis: It is important to understand that there are both natural and artificial substitutes. Most of the concerns people have are around the five FDA-approved artificial sweeteners: Acesulfame potassium (Sunett, Sweet One), Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet), Neotame, Saccharin (SugarTwin, Sweet'N Low), and Sucralose (Splenda).

But it is important to point out that these sweeteners are all different. They all have different chemical make-ups and they are handled differently in the body - some are completely broken down, some are not. So you can’t just lump them into one thing if you do have concerns about them.

  • CNN: How are natural sweeteners – like stevia - different? And are they a healthier option compared to artificial sweeteners?

Dr. Jampolis: Stevia is a natural sweetener from South America that has no calories but is 250 times sweeter than sugar.  It has seen a huge surge in popularity since its clearance as GRAS (generally regarded as safe) as a food additive in 2008.  Stevia has been proven safe and effective by the FDA. Many nutrition experts prefer it since it is natural, but just because something is natural does not always mean that it is safer. I tell my patients that if you prefer the taste of a natural sweetener, then I think it is a very good option but there isn’t evidence that it is a healthier option compared to artificial sweeteners.

  • CNN: There is always a lot of buzz linking sugar substitutes and cancer. Is there any reason for people to be worried?

Dr. Jampolis: The studies that I have seen, and the studies the National Cancer Institute have reviewed, all point to the fact that in humans there is no compelling evidence. It is really more of just a few animal studies. In the 1960s there was a study of saccharin in rats, which found an increase in bladder cancer and caused a great deal of fear. However, it was later found that the mechanism by which it caused cancer in rats was not even possible in humans. Animal studies do not always reflect human response and saccharin is a great example of this. Aspartame is also often anecdotally linked to brain disorders based on small animal studies, but human studies have not shown an association. I think that at this point, we don’t have convincing research. It is more hype and really just a little bit blown out of proportion.

  • CNN: I’ve also heard that sugar-free foods and drinks can make you crave more food and calories. It sort of tricks your body. Any truth to that?

Dr. Jampolis: This is an interesting question which has not been answered definitely.  The taste of sweet does cause the release of insulin, which lowers blood sugar , and if carbohydrates are not consumed,  it causes a drop in blood sugar which triggers hunger and cravings for sugar.  So if an artificial sweetener is consumed alone, it could theoretically increase hunger.  However in the context of a meal, it is not known if it causes an increase in hunger and if so, it's not known if this outweighs the decrease in calories consumed. We know that some artificial sweeteners do cause a release of insulin which could drop your blood sugar and make you crave more sugar actually. And they also seem to trigger the same addition like pathways in the brain.

  • CNN: Okay - so would I be better off eating one small piece of candy made with real sugar, or a larger portion that is sugar-free?

Dr. Jampolis: Honestly I don’t think there is a correct answer.  In my opinion, if you consume it after a meal (not on an empty stomach), I would go by preference.  If you really enjoy a piece of chocolate with real sugar, having a small amount is fine. If you like the taste of sugar-free cherry candy, that’s OK.  As long as we consume things in moderation, I don’t think either option is harmful.

When we start talking about beverages (soda versus diet soda) it becomes more of an issue. Sugar-sweetened beverages can contribute hundreds of extra calories to the diet that we don’t fully compensate for. And many experts, including myself, feel that it significantly contributes to weight gain, especially metabolically toxic weight gain and metabolic abnormalities.

  • CNN: I remember a study a few years back that found people who drink diet soda tend to weigh more than people who don’t.  Why do you think that is?

Dr. Jampolis:  A lot of studies show that diet soda is linked with being overweight but there isn’t a clear answer as to why. Is it because they drink diet soda that they are overweight? Or is it because it actually causes weight gain? We all know people who drink diet sodas all day long, but then go home in the evening and have a large serving of ice cream. However, there is some evidence suggesting an increased risk of metabolic syndrome with diet soda intake. So I think the best advice is probably to limit both regular and diet soda consumption for optimal health, especially with children.

  • CNN: Bottom line: if I want to cut down my sugar consumption, are sugar substitutes a safe option for me?

Dr. Jampolis:  I don’t think that they are a good idea for children since we don’t fully understand the potential metabolic/programming effects. If there is even the possibility of an increased risk of any disease, a lifetime of exposure would increase that risk.

In adults, I think they can be safely consumed in moderation if you are diabetic and are trying to reduce sugar and/or trying to lose weight and reducing caloric intake as they help reduce the calorie density of foods - which is one of the most important components of permanent weight loss. If you feel like you are dependent on sugar, I suggest limiting consumption, particularly in beverages, as the high intensity of their sweetness could contribute to dependency.

In general, I like to see people trying to decrease the overall sweetness of their diet over time – adding fresh fruit to water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages or substituting things like applesauce for some of the sugar in baked goods can boost nutrients while reducing calories and sugar. I don’t recommend using "healthier-sounding" alternatives to sugar - like honey - unless you prefer the taste, as they contain the same amount of sugar as table sugar.



soundoff (236 Responses)
  1. cnair

    Need to look at effects of high fructose corn syrup!!!

    April 27, 2012 at 08:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sharp

      The research I read about that says High Fructose Corn Syrup is very toxic. The body has no natural tools to buffer the entry of this sweetener into the blood. It floods into the blood very quickly. This causes bad spikes in blood sugar that overwhelm the insulin based regulating system of the body. Over time this deranges the body's blood sugar & leads directly to diabetes.

      April 27, 2012 at 11:42 | Report abuse |
    • Marky Merlot

      Agreed. Due to the powerfull influence of the corn lobby, it's unlikely to change anytime soon. Suggestion: buy your sodas in Canada/Mexico, where sucrose is still the sweetener of choice.

      April 27, 2012 at 12:07 | Report abuse |
    • researcher

      No, everything study I've read that was done on humans that is in legitimate, peer-reviewed medical literature says it's just as bad – and no worse – as sugar. Which makes sense because...they have the same monosaccharide makeup. A lot of people mistake fructose studies for HFCS studies – excessive added fructose alone has been shown to have some "bad juju" effects (although many of the studies are done on large doses most people wouldn't consume) and added fructose isn't really used anymore for that reason. But HFCS is actually a blend of glucose and fructose that in effect acts similarly to sucrose (table sugar), which is a disaccharide that is made of the same two sugars and in very similar ratios – the "high fructose" has become somewhat of a misnomer in this regard. You can't take the effects of fructose alone (large doses at that) and magically say they apply to HFCS without testing those claims.

      Anybody who claims sugar is healthier is a natural nut or is trying to sell you, well, sugar (and at a premium price, at that).

      April 27, 2012 at 12:20 | Report abuse |
    • gene grossman

      Studies I have read indicate that High Fructose Corn Syrup inhibits the body's production of leptin, the hormone that signals it's time to stop eating... you're full.

      As a result, consumption of HFCS leads people to believe that they are still hungry, so they continue eating. Also, it is quite a bit less expensive to use as a sweetener, thereby giving food processors not only a cost saving incentive, but also the ability to advertise 'sugar free.'

      G.G. – LegalMystery.com

      April 27, 2012 at 13:49 | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      Aspartame breaks down into formaldehyde in the liver, look that up. Stay away from aspartame and be healthy.

      April 27, 2012 at 14:18 | Report abuse |
    • Al

      You guys need a healthy dose of snopes... @Tom, you're quoting from an urban legend.

      April 27, 2012 at 14:29 | Report abuse |
    • malalcha77

      Anyone wanting to know about the effects of sugar needs to read a little book called 'Sugar Blues'.

      April 28, 2012 at 14:34 | Report abuse |
    • coaster26

      @Sharp: I had a diabetic feline once, and when he would go into an isulin seizure, the remedy was to force Corn Syrup into his mouth in small amounts.

      April 28, 2012 at 15:58 | Report abuse |
  2. Robert M

    A whole lot of no answers. Is this guy a politician??

    April 27, 2012 at 09:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Coffeeclue

      Exactly my thoughts.

      April 27, 2012 at 09:59 | Report abuse |
    • Nicole

      Exactly!

      April 27, 2012 at 10:52 | Report abuse |
    • ak2k

      Yup, my only take-away is that more research needs to be done – no answers!

      April 27, 2012 at 11:05 | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      First off, it's a woman, not a guy, and she is a doctor. Next time read the story.

      April 27, 2012 at 11:12 | Report abuse |
    • Jen

      Afraid to tell what she really thinks. Who wants to fight the big corporation that produce junk food for this country? No one can!

      April 27, 2012 at 11:42 | Report abuse |
    • samwomack

      Everytime I see an article like this there aren't answers, and she's the expert!

      April 27, 2012 at 11:52 | Report abuse |
    • isolate

      No, she's not. What you're seeing in the article is a clash between cultures, if you will. The reporter wants a sound bite that will make a good headline, preferably one with exclamation points. The doctor qualifies her remarks so as not to make a careless statement she might find coming back to haunt her.

      This is the problem with the kind of attention-grabbing reporting we're subject to in this era of short attention spans and endless distractions. Articles on health and nutrition are especially vulnerable to being quoted out of context for the sake of a screamer headline. Look at all the food fads, supplements and instant weight-loss programs that are introduced as breakthroughs one month, only to be disproven a few months later. The American public wants instant answers; sadly, the media are only too happy to provide them.

      April 27, 2012 at 12:07 | Report abuse |
    • Ron R

      This article is pointless - a waste of reading time.

      April 27, 2012 at 12:41 | Report abuse |
    • jbmw

      @Isolate – I complete agree with everything you said. It appears that this Dr. will not sensationalize this with strict yes/no answers that the media wants them too. Everyone is different, what may cause cancer in one person will not have any negative effect on another. Like the big Saccharin scare when rats were given doses that were unrealisitc and, like the article said, it could not even happen to a human.

      It seems some people really want to drink one specific flavor of kool-aid, but I find nothing wrong with a little variety, in moderation.

      April 27, 2012 at 13:29 | Report abuse |
    • ET

      I cannot agree more. There is NO substance in the whole interview. You get better answers by just googling ... "Politician" indeed 😉

      April 27, 2012 at 14:35 | Report abuse |
    • Mikeindm

      A whole lot of 'no answers' if you aren't hearing what you want to hear. Basically, she didn't say that any of these products were bad, so it didn't meet your needs and you call it a 'non-answer.'

      April 27, 2012 at 15:29 | Report abuse |
    • Leslie

      I agree Robert, the answers were really non-answers!

      April 28, 2012 at 14:16 | Report abuse |
  3. Stephanie

    This article was pointless. None of the responses actually contained answers.

    April 27, 2012 at 09:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • marion

      ...is he dancing on a tightrope..?

      April 27, 2012 at 10:28 | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      First of all, it's a woman. Secondly, you can't blame her if there are no easy answers. Things are just not black and white. And the bottom line is, you should eat very little sugar or any other sweetener in a healthy diet, but no one wants to hear that.

      The killer is that if you do cut back for a while, you eventually find you don't crave it. Just give it a few weeks. It's not a lifetime of fighting it. If more people understood that a lot more of them would give it up and would be a lot healthier.

      April 27, 2012 at 12:58 | Report abuse |
    • ET

      Agreed! What a waste of time ...

      April 27, 2012 at 14:36 | Report abuse |
    • UAgal

      @Dan and others defending the doctor's non-definitive answer – I agree completely. The article is unsatisfying because there are no clear cut answers on what to consume, sugar, fake sweetener, no sweets.. On the other hand it was very useful in getting us all to think harder about our food choices and do more of our own homework. Why else would we bother to read the comments and write our own?

      I agree with Dan that if you cut out sugar/sweets you will stop craving them. I have experienced it myself. Bad new is it is a hard couple of weeks to get there. In the end you feel much better!!

      April 28, 2012 at 10:49 | Report abuse |
  4. Reggie

    Completely worthless.

    April 27, 2012 at 10:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. leila

    Completely a waste of time to read. None of the questions were answered. Just a lot of hyperbole.

    April 27, 2012 at 10:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Fox me? Fox you!

      Look up the meaning of hyperbole professor.

      April 27, 2012 at 11:19 | Report abuse |
    • Mary

      She was just telling us what is known and giving the best advice possible. She can't make up stuff just to grab our attention. I suppose we Americans don't like to be told to practice moderation.

      I think that aspartame is very harmful. I drank so much diet soda for so many years, that now, if I even take a small drink, I get very sick, very fast. I guess I built up some kind of resistance over time.

      April 27, 2012 at 13:28 | Report abuse |
  6. Leeann DeMouche

    Can you please read this?
    lv,
    me

    April 27, 2012 at 10:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Jday

    I also heard recently that people eating diet food in general (including diet soda) tend to be overweight? Weird.

    April 27, 2012 at 10:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jim

      I am type 2 62. I lost over 90lbs. in 12months. I have drunk coke and now diet coke (1998) 5 to 6 cans while I drive or in my office most of my life. There is no good answer to the question, but too much of anything is not good for you (except diet coke).

      April 27, 2012 at 11:07 | Report abuse |
    • Maya

      If you actually think about it, it isn't weird at all. Who drinks diet soda? Overweight people would be logically most likely to drink the stuff because they want to consume fewer calories, and because it seems unlikely that anyone would drink it for the flavor. If you were already a normal weight, there wouldn't be a reason to drink diet soda.

      April 27, 2012 at 13:07 | Report abuse |
    • Duh....

      Maya – yes there is a good reason to drink diet soda if you are not overweight – so you do not BECOME overweight. That's exactly why I drink it. If everyone did this, we wouldn't have as large an obesity problem.......duh....

      April 27, 2012 at 13:48 | Report abuse |
    • Kar

      It figures that the award for most inane comment that toatally missed the point would go to someone named Duh.

      April 27, 2012 at 14:05 | Report abuse |
    • Kar

      *totally a typo!

      April 27, 2012 at 14:06 | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      I used to drink regular Pepsi (48oz/day) until my wife and daughter got on me saying I was addicted and gettting fattter. After listening to them for several years, I took their challenge and switched to water (only sugar in my one cup of morning coffee) I diid not change my diet. After four years even they agreed I was not addicted to soda/sugar. And it has made no real difference in my weight, (my weight problem has much more to do with portion control than empty sugar calories) Moral of this story – Drink what you like, control what/ howmuch you eat.

      April 28, 2012 at 12:23 | Report abuse |
  8. Jon Matterhorn

    That's hilarious. If he comes out and says "Sugar good! artificial sweeteners bad!", people will comment he's just working for the sugar producers. If he says "Sugar bad! Artificial sweeteners good!", people will complain he's on the sweetener companies' payroll. But when he comes out and speaks the truth (which is almost always much less scandalous) and basically says "we don't know. Practice moderation", everyone fusses as well.

    April 27, 2012 at 10:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Matt

      Hahaha very true. Everybody just wants to blame something, when they should be looking into the mirror and practicing self control. Water in excess is toxic, so is everything else.

      April 27, 2012 at 11:27 | Report abuse |
  9. Portland tony

    This article proves that no matter how hard a "reporter" tries...if there's no story ....there's no story! Despite all the hype, there is no best answer for solving the overweight issues that humans face. Except common sense and moderation.

    April 27, 2012 at 10:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Woofiness

    I developed 2 large parotid tumors on my neck (1 on each side). After the MRI, I had surgery to remove the larger one. I stopped dumping Equal (Aspartame) in my coffee each morning, and the other tumor disappeared in 3 months. ENT was asking what I did differently after the surgery. Coincidence? I don't think so.

    April 27, 2012 at 10:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • informed99

      The other day, I saw a black cat, then as i was driving to work, someone hit my car. Coincidence? I don't think so either.

      April 27, 2012 at 11:12 | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Thanks for the appropriate retort, informed99

      April 27, 2012 at 11:46 | Report abuse |
    • researcher

      Ditto. Even if you have been eating the most carcinogenic substance in the world (and trust me, you haven't), stopping its consumption will NOT make a tumor go away – it might make it grow slower, but that's it. It's about as logical as saying that the survivors of a nuclear bomb could remove their cancer risk by moving away from the city

      April 27, 2012 at 12:32 | Report abuse |
    • Maya

      You obviously have a deficient understanding of cause and effect.

      April 27, 2012 at 13:08 | Report abuse |
    • Alienate

      I too have a story connected to Aspartame. I was drinking large amounts of diet sodas with Aspartame. My shoulder and wrist joints were very sore. Intense pain if I did a "high 5" I took Glucosamine with minimal results. I was sent an article about how Aspartame caused joint pain. I switched to diet sodas made with Splenda. Within 2 weeks all my joint pain was GONE!

      You can scoff if you like, Aspartame is poison.

      April 27, 2012 at 14:39 | Report abuse |
  11. Patty

    I think this is an interview I would have filed away for a later date follow-up....no helpful answers....eat what you like...in moderation.

    April 27, 2012 at 11:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. ak2k

    Oh well, I prefer the real deal anyway, just keep it to a minimum.

    April 27, 2012 at 11:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Bob H.

    Three cheers for putting these questions to an actual expert rather than a new-age yahoo who makes it up as they go along. We all should lead evidence-based lives.

    April 27, 2012 at 11:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Emily

      Evidence is what we can see at this moment. In ten years, we may have contradictory evidence. In the meantime, studies indicate that our evidence does not tell the whole story, and I'll take it with a grain of salt and listen to my gut. I also tend not to completely trust evidence that's so heavily influenced by those who stand to make or lose money because of it. Think of where we'd be if we always put all our faith in the evidence. Think of all the prescription medications that have been cleared because of evidence, later to be banned because of new evidence. You can choose to lead an "evidence-based" life. Good luck with that. But don't tell me that you can't see why I would choose a different approach!

      April 28, 2012 at 13:25 | Report abuse |
  14. Lou

    OMG this a doctor? I wasted 5 mins reading this stupid article until I realized there was no answers.

    April 27, 2012 at 11:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Emily

      In my experience, sadly, this is a TYPICAL doctor. Just spits out the "facts" fed to him by the FDA and doesn't have any interest in seeking the truth.

      April 28, 2012 at 13:17 | Report abuse |
    • coaster26

      Typical of someone seeking the answers to their ailments in one fell swoop, and from a CNN article, no less. You did get an answer. The answer was that artificial sweetners haven't been proven to be harmful in moderation. Just like the real thing. Just like EVERYTHING. Injest too much sugar over many years, and become diabetic. Injest too much artificial sweetners over many years and you risk other things (metaolic disease, overeating, etc) Read too many CNN articles, and you risk believing they are the answer to everything.

      You should probably go for a walk.

      April 28, 2012 at 16:09 | Report abuse |
  15. Dave

    Thanks for telling the boring truth, Dr. J, although it is displeasing to the Health Religionists: there is very likely no harm at all in normal use of any of the artificial sweeteners, and "natural" is not automatically safer. Good job, and a useful message to those who have been confused by the HRs.

    April 27, 2012 at 11:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Sharp

    Looks like the author is making non statements & taking non positions & ignoring High Fructose Corn Syrup because she can't take the heat from Big Pharma & Big Agriculture.

    April 27, 2012 at 11:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Dave

    Sharp, high fructose corn syrup is not appreciably different from ordinary table sugar (sucrose)–the same composition of about 50:50 glucose and fructose, which is the same ratio of these sugars provided by Mother Nature in apples, oranges, bananas, etc. and in many vegetables. There is nothing insidious or different about HFCS. Several high-quality studies bear this out–exactly the same metabolic response to both.

    April 27, 2012 at 11:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Name*Eg

    And nobody mentioned xylitol?

    April 27, 2012 at 12:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. mikrik13

    You can be certain of one thing. If the government (FDA) approves, it is only a matter of time until you are dead. We are a population of ginny pigs. No one knows, no one really cares, and people make money from all points of view. Except mine.

    April 27, 2012 at 12:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Amused

      "it is only a matter of time until you are dead"

      Wow, the truth in this statement gives me chills. 😉

      April 27, 2012 at 13:37 | Report abuse |
    • gin

      Maybe so, but you've left me wondering what a "ginny pig" is!

      April 28, 2012 at 11:53 | Report abuse |
  20. Jeff

    Soooo... of those artificial sweeteners listed, some can be completely broken down by the body... Wouldn't the next follow up question be, "Duh, which ones are they?" What a stupid article.

    April 27, 2012 at 12:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • kyle

      The best criticism of this article.

      April 29, 2012 at 15:33 | Report abuse |
  21. Bob H.

    Sharps comments about high-fructose corn syrup are patently false and exhibit nothing but this person's inability to distinguish fact from fiction. The current peer-reviewed legitimate research finds HFCS to be no better or worse for you than other sugars.

    April 27, 2012 at 12:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Ken L.

    This article told me nothing. Take a position already.

    April 27, 2012 at 12:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Chris L

    Aspartame was first discovered while making bio weapons. Look it up.

    April 27, 2012 at 13:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. JT

    LOL at all the people saying "this article told me nothing!"

    Wrong, it just didn't tell you what you wanted to hear!

    I've been using Stevia for about a year now. Burned off 30 lbs running/biking 2x a week and it's nice to know that I don't have to live in fear of gaining it back by drinking the occassional sweet beverage – I just prefer to sweeten my own tea and coffee.

    I really wish they'd sell a completely sugar-free coke/pepsi product and let people sweeten it themselves. It would have to be cheaper for them to produce, so what's stopping them?

    April 27, 2012 at 13:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tom

      try stirring your sweetner and some flavoring into a bottle of soda water.

      April 28, 2012 at 12:33 | Report abuse |
    • coaster26

      Carbonation. That's what is stopping you from mixing things into your sodas. (Would you like that coke shaken, or stirred?)

      April 28, 2012 at 16:13 | Report abuse |
  25. Michael

    This article didn't say anything new at all. I was expecting it to list each sweetener and list off it's pros and cons.
    I still don't know if one is worse than the other. It sounds like it doesn't matter what you consume as long as you have will power and I know that's not true because MOST of our artificial sweeteners have been banned in Europe and Mexico. WHY? Why have they been banned. They conducted their own studies and banned them. Talk about that for once.

    April 27, 2012 at 13:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • D

      Excellent point! Sometimes I think the media (and the powers that be) do not want us to know what is happening in other countries with regard to regulation of substances. Food, cosmetics, drugs, you name it.

      April 29, 2012 at 14:25 | Report abuse |
  26. plav74

    I can't consume aspartame without having significant gastric distress (bloating, gas and worse). I started drinking diet sodas for a period of time. I didn't notice the connection until I stopped drinking them, about a year later and thinking I had IBS or something. Now I'm careful not to eat or drink anything with aspartame, but if I do end up doing it accidentally I can tell. It happened to me about a month ago when I took some medicine that you put in hot water (I think it was Theraflu). I went back to check the label and, sure enough, it had aspartame in it. Artificial sweeteners are hard to avoid completely.

    April 27, 2012 at 13:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mary

      To be frank, aspartame gives me horrendous, uncontrollable diarrhea, with little or no warning. You can imagine the awkward situations I've been in due to this. I keep Imodium with me at all times (the doctor's advice). I am trying very hard not to drink diet sodas anymore, but I was an addict for so many years – it is hard to give it up. My sensitivity seems to have built up due to years of drinking way too much of the stuff. I am doing much better now, although I still yearn for my "fix". Regular soda just doesn't scratch that itch.

      April 27, 2012 at 13:41 | Report abuse |
    • D

      Mary- to me it is astounding how someone could get addicted to diet soda. I could understand regular soda, but diet just tastes so nasty. It is like cigarettes, I guess. Can't imagine why anyone would want to smoke either.

      April 29, 2012 at 14:27 | Report abuse |
  27. Mojo Jack

    There are a lot of cases of people claiming that fake sugars are poison that causes health problems from fibromyalgia to diabetes to Parkinson's to cancer to birth defects to death. The right thing to do would be to ban it and err on the side of caution. That would take care of the problem and leave no doubts. That won't happen.

    The weight-conscious want their sugarless foods and the corporations won't hear of losing millions of dollars in sales in a ban on products for the weight-conscious. Scientists have been paid under the table to lie, politicians have pulled corrupt strings and lawyers have used the sharp cutting-edge of the law to fight all efforts claiming fake sugars to be dangerous. For decades consumers have continued to suck down the poisons for profit and forget about caution just like the corporations want you to. I'm glad I'm not one of them.

    April 27, 2012 at 14:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Deborah Does Sugar

      Agreed. If the products and the food they are in are so healthy, then we would have seen decreases in weight and health issues not the other way around. Eat garbage, your body turns to garbage.

      April 27, 2012 at 14:23 | Report abuse |
    • JT

      NO, the right thing to do isn't to ban something because a few people claim it's bad. Can people not make choices for themselves? This a free country and if I want to eat artificial sweeteners, then dang-it, that's what I'm going to do.

      I'm not going to force YOU to eat them, why would you want to force me into avoiding them?

      April 27, 2012 at 14:24 | Report abuse |
    • Mojo Jack

      JT: We don't put gasoline in foods either. If you want to chug down a nice warm mug of 91 octane BP fuel that's your perogative. Just keep it out of the grocery store food.

      April 27, 2012 at 14:35 | Report abuse |
    • JT

      Mojojack: you are perfectly within your rights to buy a can of gas and add it to your food. Failed analogy. Also, it's been proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that gasoline will kill you if you drink it – again, another failed analogy.

      April 27, 2012 at 14:47 | Report abuse |
    • Mojo Jack

      JT: Just because you don't get it doesn't make it a failed analogy. You're confusing consumer rights with corporations rights because you can't read. It doesn't surprise me.

      April 27, 2012 at 16:15 | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      @MojoJack

      April 28, 2012 at 12:38 | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      @MojoJack – Why not put it in grocery stores if it is labeled properly – Can't you read?

      April 28, 2012 at 12:39 | Report abuse |
  28. mikeydubbs

    Here's an idea. PUT DOWN THE FORK AND MOVE AROUND MORE.

    April 27, 2012 at 14:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Deborah Does Sugar

    I gave up artificial sweeteners in '97 and after I did, random headaches, cravings and horrific PMS went away along with bloating and a ton of other physical ailments. I have no proof, but I think these things are toxic poisons and it wouldn't surprise me in the least if the increase of artificial sweetener use over generations isn't somehow linked to the massive increase in Autism, diabetes and cancers.

    April 27, 2012 at 14:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tom

      Aspartame breaks down into formaldehyde (embalming fluid) in the liver, look it up and stay away.

      April 27, 2012 at 14:29 | Report abuse |
    • coaster26

      @Tom; I can look that up on Snopes.com is that what you meant?

      April 28, 2012 at 16:16 | Report abuse |
  30. Andy

    Aspartame, which is the sweetener in Nutrasweet, is absolute poison and is in most junk consumed in the western world, it is criminal that it is still allowed

    April 27, 2012 at 14:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tom

      agree 100%.

      April 27, 2012 at 14:30 | Report abuse |
    • SKae

      We are a society that is looking for magic answers to EVERYTHING. Moderation is no longer a word that people understand, nor is there an understanding of what physical activity really means. Anyone who drinks multiple cans of diet soft drinks have some kind of addiction to foods that should be addressed. No wonder a few studies find that these individuals still have weigh problems. It goes a whole lot deeper than drinking diet sodas. There is an underlying obsession that is not healthy. The reason the answers in the article are not black and white is because there are conflicting studies and until a strong consensus of the science is reached, it is absolutely appropriate for a scientist to answer in the way this article did.

      April 28, 2012 at 14:16 | Report abuse |
  31. Vic

    You can live well and happy without man made sugar.

    April 27, 2012 at 14:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • D

      No, I can't be happy without sugar. I am serious.

      April 29, 2012 at 14:30 | Report abuse |
  32. Ceasar

    Aspartame and other artificial sweeteners give people diarrhea because they are not natural and cannot be digested, should not be sold to the people, why are they? And many time without warning. Why this "doctor" is not telling people about this fact? Is this article and others just propaganda in favor of artificial sweeteners, Do not play with my intestins, please.

    April 27, 2012 at 14:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Deborah Does Sugar

    When a sweetener is derived from fermented Ecoli bacteria or pool chemicals, you would think that a person's logic center would kick in and say.. "poison", but for some reason it kicks in and says "oh goodie, zero calories"... I'm adding a decrease in brain cells and common sense to my list of suspected side effects this crap causes.

    April 27, 2012 at 14:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • kyle

      You mean e.coli which is present as one of the primary gut bacteria in humans?

      April 29, 2012 at 15:37 | Report abuse |
  34. Hawkeye321

    Don't eat sugar. Don't eat gluten. Don't eat corn. Don't eat soy.

    Hell, don't eat.

    April 27, 2012 at 14:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Sara

    Sugar and fake sugar are BOTH toxic. But if you must choose, your body is better at dealing with the sugar than a nuerotoxin.

    April 27, 2012 at 14:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. JT

    It is become increasing obvious that this blog is just a magnet for the tinfoil hat crowd... despite the fact that the content of the article is the exact opposite.

    April 27, 2012 at 14:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Emily

      Let's keep drinking the stuff and prove those crazies wrong! You go first 😉

      April 28, 2012 at 13:09 | Report abuse |
  37. jeremyhornephd

    Re: "Stevia has been proven safe and effective by the FDA." WRONG! The FDA is not an independent testing agency, as is an organization like UL. The FDA relies on private corporations for its data. So if the FDA accepts the results from a pharmaceutical or food industry company, and that data is falsified, the FDA has accepted a lie. Until there is an independent testing agency – free from corporatist influence, we will still be living in the shadow of uncertainty. I, for one, to not trust these corporations, where profits come before people.

    April 27, 2012 at 15:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. BonaFied

    I know a coworker that drinks nothing, I mean nothing but diet coke. No water, no coffee, nothing but diet coke. She also eats at McDonald's breakfast, lunch and dinner. She weighs 280 lb. So put that in your google and search it!

    April 27, 2012 at 15:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • D

      Wow-that's insane.

      April 29, 2012 at 14:33 | Report abuse |
  39. AndrewH

    So, bottom line, nobody knows anything that proves anything.

    I don't understand why an article would be written when every answer is the same.."right now we don't know" or "there is no right answer".

    What it all boils down to, is MODERATION. if you can monitor and control your intake of sugars, sweeteners, fats, etc., you will not have any major issues.

    April 27, 2012 at 15:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • bobincal

      Exactly. "Honestly I don’t think there is a correct answer". Another useless CNN article that gives us no answer or even a guideline!

      April 28, 2012 at 11:36 | Report abuse |
  40. Josephine

    If it's not food, it's not food. Simple.

    April 28, 2012 at 10:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Jim H.

    A totally useless article! This provide no useful information. You could be in politics!

    April 28, 2012 at 12:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Emily

    I really don't like what this guy has to say about honey vs. sugar. Sure, they may have the same amount of sugar, but honey has benefits that sugar doesn't, like antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. We shouldn't be focusing solely on calories; there's so much more to nutrition than that.

    April 28, 2012 at 12:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • D

      I suppose you have a point, but there are people out there who think honey is "healthy" and then overdo it.

      April 29, 2012 at 14:34 | Report abuse |
  43. Kevin

    LOL >>> Gupta the gullible. No info in the article whatsoever: then why is he asking her for anyway?

    April 28, 2012 at 13:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • coaster26

      I find a lot of his articles are like that. Much like Oprah's Doctor Oz, these pet doctors are kept on staff for their catchy names and ability to churn out books and articles. And they know when to smile at the correct camera. They have an opinion on everything, so they have to be right sometimes, and they can sit and dumb down some of the more complicated things for those that don't want to spend the time looking it up for themselves. But when it comes to grey areas, or new research, they are just as confounded as you and I, no matter how much they get paid.

      April 28, 2012 at 16:23 | Report abuse |
  44. Kevin

    Gupta did an article not long ago on the use of permanently implanted brain electrodes to handle depression, yet in the article it clearly stated that no one knew why the procedure worked. Yet it was being put forward as another "solution" to mental health. This guy is a joke, I don't care how much "education" he has, CNN needs to lose him.

    April 28, 2012 at 13:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. SKae

    Reposting a general comment instead of a reply to Andy who is obviously biased.

    We are a society that is looking for magic answers to EVERYTHING. Moderation is no longer a word that people understand, nor is there an understanding of what physical activity really means. Anyone who drinks multiple cans of diet soft drinks have some kind of addiction to foods that should be addressed. No wonder a few studies find that these individuals still have weigh problems. It goes a whole lot deeper than drinking diet sodas. There is an underlying obsession that is not healthy. The reason the answers in the article are not black and white is because there are conflicting studies and until a strong consensus of the science is reached, it is absolutely appropriate for a scientist to answer in the way this article did.

    April 28, 2012 at 14:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. malalcha77

    I notice there's an ad with a picture of pastries next to this story. Hah.

    April 28, 2012 at 14:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • coaster26

      You know, in case the artificial sweetners are making you hungry, this is what they suggest you eat now. Could have been a picture of an apple...

      April 28, 2012 at 16:24 | Report abuse |
  47. PraiseTheLard

    Moderation will kill you!!!

    April 28, 2012 at 14:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Chris

    The article was a good read despite the negative comments. The reason there are no answers in the article is because there are no definitive answers from all the research that has been done. The good advice in this article is the same good advice that applies to almost everything in life. Moderation.

    April 28, 2012 at 14:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. md22mdrx

    Splenda should be taken off the market. IT IS POISON!!!!!

    Personally, I experience acute elevated blood pressure, headaches, blurred vision, dizziness, etc. I've read that other people have experienced bad rashes and long-term general malaise. Avoid Splenda (sucralose) at ALL costs and write to the companies to let them know to stop using it.

    April 28, 2012 at 15:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. tyler

    I had MS-like symptoms for months but was diagnosed as NOT having that disease. The doctors, including a neurologist and an infectious disease specialist,were baffled. Then I happened to look at the pack of gum I was chewing from. "Warning" it said. That's strange, I thought. Why would something as seemingly innocuous as chewing gum have a warning label on it. Then I looked up the possible side effects of ingesting aspartame. All my symptoms were listed. I eliminated it from my diet and the symptoms disappeared. The stuff is poison to some people.

    April 28, 2012 at 16:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • rmforall

      Hi Tyler, yeah, MS has exactly the same symptoms as chronic methanol toxicity - about the same amount of methanol arrives in people from wood and tobacco smoke, fruits juices vegetables preserved by heating in sealed cans and jars, some dark wines and liquors, fermented and smoked foods, aspartame, building materials made with glued wood, and many other products - the ADH enzyme turns methanol into formaldehyde right inside blood vessels in liver, kidney, brain, retina, breast, womb, fetus - impeding DNA, RNA, and proteins, creating micro lesions, birth defects, and specific cancers - look for While Science Sleeps, by Prof. Woodrow C. Monte, a January 2012 review with 740 free online full text pdf references...

      April 29, 2012 at 02:17 | Report abuse |
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.