Diane May Nutrition Blog

What To Know About Artificial Sweeteners

July 15th, 2023

In the last few months there have been new insight into the safety and efficacy  of artificial sweeteners. In March, the journal Nature published and associaltion between cardiovascular risk and erythritol consumption. In May, the World Health Organization (WHO) advised that artificial sweeteners should not be used for weight loss. This month WHO released a new assessment of the hazards and potential risks associated with Aspertame. So what does this mean and should you use artificial sweeteners? The short answer in my opinion is no. Lets start with erythritol. Erythritol is is a form of carbohydrate called a sugar alcohol that is naturally occuring in some foods. The erythritol in the study is the man made form used in sugar free foods and drinks ans well as being mixed with other artificial sweeteners like aspertame, stevia, monkfruit and keto products. Erythritol  absorbs quickly into our intestines and we excrete this substance through our urine. In the study, consumption of erythritol was linked to blood clotting, stroke, heart attack and death. “The degree of risk was not modest,” said lead study author Dr. Stanley Hazen, director of the Center for Cardiovascular Diagnostics and Prevention at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute. People with existing risk factors for heart disease, such as diabetes, were twice as likely to experience a heart attack or stroke if they had the highest levels of erythritol in their blood, according to the study. These results suggest that consuming erythritol can increase blood clot formation. This, in turn, could increase the risk of heart attack or stroke. Given the pabundance of erythritol in artificially sweetened foods, further safety studies of the health risks of erythritol are warranted.

In regard to the statement from WHO regarding  not using artificial sweeteners for weight loss, we have known for a long time that artificial sweetners can be up to  1000x sweeter than regular sugar and trigger cravings and larger portions, which in the long term, lead to weight gain. “The recommendation is based on the findings of a systematic review of the available evidence which suggests that use of NSS  (non sugar sweeteners) does not confer any long-term benefit in reducing body fat in adults or children. Results of the review also suggest that there may be potential undesirable effects from long-term use of NSS, such as an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and mortality in adults. Replacing free sugars with NSS does not help with weight control in the long term. People need to consider other ways to reduce free sugars intake, such as consuming food with naturally occurring sugars, like fruit, or unsweetened food and beverages,” says Francesco Branca, WHO Director for Nutrition and Food Safety. “NSS are not essential dietary factors and have no nutritional value. People should reduce the sweetness of the diet altogether, starting early in life, to improve their health”. 

On to Aspertame. Although approved almost two decades ago, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA). Citing “limited evidence” for carcinogenicity in humans, IARC classified aspartame as possibly carcinogenic to humans (IARC Group 2B) and JECFA reaffirmed the acceptable daily intake of 40 mg/kg body weight.  Aspartame (for example NutraSweet , Splenda, Sweet and Low and Equal) is a non nutritive sweetener, a chemical combination of two amino acids and methanol, that has been around since the 70’s. It is 200x sweeter than table sugar. in 2012, The American Jounal of Clinical Nutrition published a study observed a positive association between diet soda and total aspartame intake and risks of NHL and multiple myeloma in men and leukemia in both men and women. A higher consumption of regular sugar-sweetened soda was associated with higher risk of NHL and multiple myeloma in men but not in women. There have been numerous studies showing possible and real health risks associated with artifical sweeteners and negative health outcomes. 

At the end of the day, it is a personal choice to remove or continue to consume artificial sweeteners. But knowledge is power, and putting these chemicals in your body certainly put you at risk for cardiovascular disease and cancer. Artificial sweeteners are also linked to IBS, migraine, behavioral and developmental issues,  diabetes, and dementia. These sweeteners are a modifiable risk factgor that we can remove from our diet and have a healthier and longer life. The choice is yours to make! If you want to remove artificial sweeteners from your diet, you can get help from a knowlegable RD.

Lemon-Blueberry Nice Cream

Nice cream is for everyone, regardless of dietary restrictions. This dairy- and lactose-free, no-added-sugar version requires only five ingredients, including cold water, and comes together as fast as the blades in your food processor can spin. It’s bright with blueberries and creamy from bananas, making it a simple and easy dessert with a good dose of dietary fiber—how much more can you ask from a delicious frozen summer dessert?

lemon blueberry ice cream
Active Time: 10 mins
Total Time: 10 mins
Servings: 4
          3 medium ripe bananas, sliced and frozen
          ¼ cup lemon juice
          ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
          ¼ cup cold water, as needed
          ¾ cup frozen blueberries 
  1. Place frozen banana slices, lemon juice and vanilla in a food processor. Process until smooth, adding cold water to loosen the mixture, if necessary. Transfer to a bowl; stir in frozen blueberries. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 1 month

  2. To make ahead

Store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
98 Calories
1g Fat
25g Carbs
1g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 4
Serving Size generous 1/2 cup
Calories 98
% Daily Value *
Total Carbohydrate 25g 9%
Dietary Fiber 3g 11%
Total Sugars 14g
Protein 1g 2%
Total Fat 1g 1%
Vitamin A 71IU 1%
Vitamin C 14mg 16%
Folate 23mcg 6%
Vitamin K 5mcg 4%
Sodium 2mg 0%
Calcium 8mg 1%
Magnesium 26mg 6%
Potassium 349mg 7%