Part 2 – cutting out artificial sweeteners

Where do I even begin. OK, so if you read part 1, I had my aha moment and replaced diet coke with seltzer. That allowed me to take out the aspartame found in diet coke and feel the positive affects of eliminating the chemically manufactured sugars from my system.

So here is what happened next. My body was starting to transform from the inside out. As I mentioned before it wasn’t like my waist size changed or that I went from being flabby to fit. It’s just that my body started using the natural fuel and stopped feasting off the fat reserves that refused to go away. Thats when I got very nerdy and dug into some research to figure out what I had been – and what I am – doing to my body.

It all started with the science of google and facebook. The more I was googling about sugars the more I was being fed some interesting ads on facebook. But one stood out to me and I took the time to watch an animated video by Dr. Cary Nelson. His video articulated the affects of artificial sweeteners (specifically from drinking diet sodas) on the gut, and how our bodies are not reacting to these substances in a healthy way because they are not naturally found in nature. Hmm… Dr. Cary brought up a point about yeasts in our gut that feed off artificial sweeteners. This point is still debated, but I looked into the point about how the gut ends up storing these sugars as fat.

I know this video is long (and it ultimately is an ad for his probiotics) but it is very informative and very well told.

Was this for real? Because I, and millions of others, have been led to believe through powerful marketing that artificial sweeteners were approved by the FDA as a diet ingredient and was a healthier alternative to sugar. So how could this be?

Lets look at the differences between the types of sugars. Natural sugars are derived from fruits and vegetables. These sugars are processed in the body as a familiar substance because our bodies have been created to recognize and digest these. The fibers in these foods also aid in the digestion. Then there are sugars from sugar cane, or sugar beets. We can touch upon Stevia later. We can refine sugars by taking the ‘sugar’ compounds out of its natural form, and purifying it to make white sugar, brown sugar, and any other kind of sugar you care to eat.

Figure 1 Processing sugar beets.
Courtesy of StatCan

Now lets look at those ‘sugars’ and the ones we have manufactured in a factory – what we so commonly call artificial sweeteners or NAT (non-caloric artificial sweeteners). Lets go back to Dr. Nelson’s theory on how these chemicals are stored as fat.

Courtesy of

Check this out, courtesy of It makes sense though, doesnt it? We dont know how to process them, we try to do something with it, out glucose levels rise, and in defense we store these substances as fat for later use. AAAHHHHHH.

Yeah thats a rude awakening.


Glucose (simple sugar) is found naturally in foods with carbohydrates.

Fructose (simple sugar) is found naturally in fruits and honey.

Sucrose (complex sugar) is half glucose and half fructose.

Other sweet substances include high fructose corn syrup, agave syrup, and molasses OR saccharine and aspartame.

So here is the skinny. Artificial sweeteners for the most part were stumbled upon over time, mostly as accidents. These were discovered to be non-caloric (or ‘fat free’) and hundreds of times sweeter than real sugar. A wonderful history of artificial sweeteners is outlined in a study published in Neuroscience 2010 by Qing Yang. These sweeteners were adopted by the dieting market to provide dieters with a sweet substitute to caloric sugar. The idea was to allow you to eat sweet foods without gaining weight. While the industry in the United States was booming, in parallel so many other countries banned these sweeteners due to the plethora of data showing linkages to waistline increases, occurrences of diabetes and obesity, and neurological imbalances. Despite these data points the government continued to push on with funding the production of artificially sweetened goods. During the Bush (Junior) administration it was time for the report (published jointly by the WHO and FAO Expert Consultation on diet, nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases), which is reviewed every few years, to be reevaluated. The 2002 report which was about to be published, indicated that artificial sweeteners were in fact increasing weight, child obesity, and diabetes. But there was no way this article would be published ‘as is’ with the Bush administration so heavily backing the diet industry and its ‘ingredients’. The report, which can be found online, was published in 2003 with vague results on this subject.

Thereafter, although aspartame was banned for a short period of time in 1980, many other sweeteners have come on the market and the Non-caloric Artificial Sweetener (NAS) industry has boomed. And yet, an overwhelming amount of evidence has shown the causation of NAS linked to childhood obesity, obese newborns from mothers who are chronic NAS-sweetened beverage drinkers, diabetes, and depression. In fact, an out poor of Coka Cola funded research has conversely shown that NAS have reduced the waist sizes of individuals after switching from regular sugar sweetened beverages to NAS-sweetened beverages, but ignores the (or rather, omits) evidence showing increased waist size compared to controls (controls = those NOT consuming NAT-sweetened beverages) . We continue to ignore the facts, and we continue to promote new and ‘better’ sweeteners like Stevia – a natural sugar that today has been okayed by the FDA.

“Based on its review of information and data submitted by industry, FDA has concluded there is no basis to object to the use of certain refined Stevia preparations in food. These refined Stevia preparations may be lawfully marketed and added to food products sold in the United States.” – FDA

While I understand that the FDA is unwilling to ban a substance that may not yet be proven as a harmful substance, this also comes from the same administration that fails to do anything about the mass marketing of McDonald’s marketing toward children. You cant for a second tell me this quote was compelling enough to leave well alone:

“Ronald McDonald never sells to children. He informs and inspires through magic and fun” – Shelley Rosen, Senior Director/Strategy. McDonald Corporation.

But for sake of argument, how much would the FDA do even if there was proof Stevia and others sweeteners were in fact harmful? You can see here what they have done to rebuttal sound evidence put forth by reputable organizations.

Im rambling on now. Let me come full circle. In the last few years a field of study known as the human microbiome has shed light on the impact of good and bad bacteria in our bodies that 1) help us fight against illness 2) maintain stasis, and 3) when imbalanced can cause illness. This relates heavily to Dr. Cary Nelson’s idea of gut yeast feeding on our sugars. Key opinion leaders in the human microbiome field are now presenting strong evidence that artificial sweeteners have a direct impact on the bacteria in our gut that ultimately communicate with hormones and neurotransmitters to lead to weight gain and depression. While this is an indirect affect on our weight, it is compelling evidence to once again suggest these chemically manufactured substances are wreaking havoc in many ways.

If I can serve as one example of what happens when these NAS are eliminated from the body, I hope I can be the one voice of reason you are willing to listen to. If you know me, you know Im not a gimmicy person, I dont fall into diets and I dont follow anything without doing the research. Everything above is strong evidence, and my own internal body is all the evidence I need. After a month of no NAS in my body (as I became mindful of drinks and foods with NAS in them and quickly eliminated them from my diet) I felt better than I have ever felt in my life. I have been eating better – because I crave healthy food –  and the fat stores that were always with me since puberty (that slight little muffin top, those lovely love handles on my lower back, the discrete little gut) have all disappeared now that my exercise is actually burning MY fat.

What next?

…to be continued

Part 3: Juicing.

Resources: (additional to those linked within)

WHO/FAO TRS 916 report

 A bitter aftertaste: unintended effects of artificial sweeteners on the gut microbiome

Non-Caloric artificial sweeteners and the microbiome: findings and challenges 

Documentary: Fed Up

Documentary: Hungry for Change

Ted Talk: Jamie Oliver – Teach every child about food

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