Sugar or Sugar-Free?

Are Sugar-Free Products Bad For Your Health?

One of my best friends drank at least 6 cans of Diet Coke per day for decades. She eventually began to develop facial pain (trigeminal neuralgia). She saw three neurologists and a dentist at several facial pain clinics and no one could tell her the cause of her face pain.

I suggested to her that long term exposure to aspartame, which metabolizes to formaldehyde – a known neurotoxin, could be the cause and asked her to switch from Diet Coke to regular Coke. While it took about 2 years to fully resolve, her pain did go away.

Diet sodas contain artificial sweeteners. To me, the word “artificial” when used in connection with food almost always connotes something unhealthy.

My rationale for advocating against artificial sweeteners is based on the following:

Your Body Knows the Difference

Your body knows the difference between things that are truly sweet because of their sugar content and those that are artificially sweet. If you are drinking sodas and soft drinks because of a craving for something sweet, artificial sweeteners will make the craving worse because they don’t satisfy it by lifting your blood sugar. You would be better off drinking one can of soda with all its sugar, than 4 cans of artificially sweetened soda (unless you have a health condition that requires you to restrict carbohydrates, in which case you should drink sparkling water instead of soda).

Possible Blood Sugar Distortions

Some artificial sweeteners can distort your body’s regulation of blood sugar. Blood sugar distortion can, over time, lead to conditions such as insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and Type 2 diabetes. Sucralose is known to have a direct impact on blood sugar. Saccharin does not seem to have a direct impact on blood glucose but may alter insulin sensitivity. The evidence for the effect of aspartame on glucose homeostasis is mixed but it may also negatively effect blood sugar stability.

Toxic Metabolites

Some artificial sweeteners convert to toxic compounds when your body metabolizes them. For example, aspartame is metabolized to formaldehyde (a carcinogen and neurotoxin)…

You can play the denial game all you want, but the evidence is clear: it really is bad for your body and your health if most of your drinks are diet soda.


This article originally appeared on Quora.