The Downside of Artificial Sweeteners

For someone on a keto diet with a sweet tooth, artificial sweeteners can seem like the perfect solution: diet sodas, sweetened coffee, and the impressive variety of apparently keto-friendly desserts that have come out of the keto community.

These dishes and the sweeteners they contain — whether they are sugar alcohols, ‘natural’ alternatives like Stevia, or manufactured ones like Splenda — creates the perception that there is no downside to the regular eating of sweets on a keto diet. But this is not the case: artificial sweeteners are dangerous both to your cravings and your insulin production.

Hyper-Sweetness and Cravings

Artificial sweeteners are far sweeter than cane sugar (sucrose) or high-fructose corn syrup. Overstimulation with these sweeteners has a strong effect on the brain:

  • You can quickly become accustomed to the taste — even come to expect it. Cravings can in turn become more intense, making you more likely to reactively eat sugary treats (artificial or not) and eat more of them. This can lead to choosing them over healthier options and the resulting weight gain.

  • When the brain becomes acclimated to the intense flavors of artificial sweeteners, it affects our ability to taste more subtle flavors in other foods — making these potentially healthier options taste bland.

Insulin

It may come as a surprise that artificial sweeteners can cause an increase in your body’s insulin production despite the fact that no actual sugar is entering the bloodstream. Sugar or no, your brain responds to the taste of sweetness by giving your insulin system a message that glucose levels are about to increase. Normally, this would give your insulin production a helpful ‘head start.' If you already suffer from insulin resistance, your body responds by creating even more insulin to prepare for the glucose that you never consumed.

Artificial sweeteners are keto-friendly in moderation, but daily consumption of them can slow weight loss and worsen health problems related to insulin resistance.