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Ask Dr. Gourmet

Are artificial sweeteners as bad for you as they say?

Equal, Splenda, Sweet N Lo, Truvia and their generic equivalents… how bad are they really? Is drinking a can of diet soda or adding a packet of Truvia to your tea really a health issue? I know the debate rages on, but I'd like to get a sensible opinion.

Dr. Gourmet Says...

Cans of SodaThere are dozens of artificial sweeteners on the market now. They are all a little different and many have engendered a lot of controversy as to whether they are healthy.

There are some small studies that associate heavy use of diet soda with higher rates of obesity than regular, sugar-sweetened soda. There was a study that showed sucralose (Splenda) might change the microbes in the intestines - but the trial was not in humans and used very large amounts of the artificial sweetener. We do not have solid evidence that any artificial sweetener can cause or worsen health problems.

All of that said, I believe that artificial sweeteners have a place, especially for occasional use. Adding a packet to your coffee or having an occasional soda will likely do you no harm (at least, not because of the artificial sweetener). Like any ingredient, you can get too much of a good thing, however.

Thanks for writing,

Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP
Dr. Gourmet