There is a lot of debate about the safety and healthy-ness of artificial sweeteners. I know I live and die by the availability of Splenda or Sweet-n-Low when it comes to my coffee. Sugar just doesn't cut it, and I was certainly led to believe it was a safe and healthy alternative to the extra calories and potential insulin spike of sugar.
I'm trying to be better about what I put in my body. And with ManFriend and myself going Paleo/Primal, I thought it was only smart to take a closer look at the real effects.
Safety and Toxicity
I honestly don't trust a lot of information out there on this topic, because most DOWN WITH TEH SWEETENERS websites also mention things like "holistic" and "cleansing". Call me a curmudgeon, but too many hippie-dippie words like that make me tune out. These are usually also the same people that try to convince me that you can cure cancer with juicing protocols. My graduate thesis was on cancer therapeutics, don't try to pull that shit on me.
Anyway, here, here, and here are some resources to read up on them. They take a pretty moderate stance (unfortunately, you have to pay to get the NCBI articles, don't get me started on that fraud of science), but my take away is this: Most studies mentioned only lasted 2 years. That's a REALLY short period of time to test the carcinogenic effects or other cumulative toxicity endpoint in animals unless they are bread to develop certain side effects. And with the inclusion of artificial sweeteners in just pretty much anything labeled "healthy", "diet", "low cal" or their ilk, you're probably consuming a lot of it.
Artificial sweeteners were designed so that we could take in fewer calories and maintain taste when the "calories in/ calories out" was the weight maintenance theory du jour. We now have a better understanding that carbohydrates and the resultant insulin spikes are more to blame.
When you get hungry and start getting closer to eating, your insulin is already starting to rise in preparation. When you start to eat food, insulin starts to rise a little more. Now, if that food is sweet, whether due to real sugar or not, your insulin is going to raise even more. It won't raise as high as if you did swallow a mouthful of sugar, but it's higher than it would be if you tastes something pleasant, but savory rather than sweet. So the using of artificial sweeteners is further priming your body for fat storage.
But what CAN I eat or drink?
Part of what many people experience when they cut sugar out, after the initial "woe is me" and cravings start to disappear, people will start to really TASTE their food. If you think about it, bread doesn't really have much of a taste. Sugars and sweeteners have the sweet sensation, but sweet isn't really a flavor in the way meats and vegetable have. You train your taste buds to get a little more sensitive.
Another GREAT tip I got from a fellow Paleo follower is to use cinnamon in my coffee. It's definitely delicious. It's not sweet, but still gives a more dessert like taste and adds true flavor to the drink. It might take a while to not expect the sweet, but much easier to enjoy than black coffee cold turkey.
So mostly, just buck up and cut it out. Drink diet sodas? I shouldn't even have to go into why you shouldn't drink those. I like carbonation, so plain soda water with lime fits the bill for me. Also, plain water with lemons, limes, or cucumber sliced into the pitcher make for a refreshing drink that isn't quite so plain.