WARNING: Use/Abuse of Artificial Sweeteners

In reply to my inquiry about the possible dangers of overuse of artificial sweeteners, I received the following reply:

You can get bloating and gas from overuse of artificial sweeteners, including overuse of sugar free gum. The treatment is weaning off those agents and ensuring proper balance of food in.

Ellen Rome, MD, MPH
Head, Section of Adolescent Medicine
Cleveland Clinic

Here are a few additionals 'warnings' about how artificial sweeteners may be harmful.

Sugar is a natural substance!!

1. More Calories than You Think

Some artificial sweeteners are misleading. Because they have few calories, the foods containing them can be listed as containing no calories when, in fact, they do have calories which can add up quickly if you are indulging your sweet tooth. This is particular true if you’re talking about foods that contain Splenda or even more natural sugar substitutes, such as sugar alcohols.

2. Headaches

This is one of the side effects associated with almost every artificial sweetener on the market. It is also part of the condition known as Aspartame sickness which refers to a collection of ailments seemingly caused by the consumption of that particular artificial sweetener.

3. Gastrointestinal Problems

Many of the most popular artificial sweeteners have also been associated with nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Usually these problems occur after high levels of the product are consumed or in people who are sensitive to the products. Foods containing sugar alcohols, such as sorbitol, must be labeled to warn consumers about these problems.

4. Allergic Reactions

Some consumers have reported allergic reactions to some of the artificial sweeteners available. These reactions have been relatively mild, including headaches, skin rashes, and similar symptoms.

5. Male Infertility

While the research is not entirely conclusive yet, some studies have linked Aspartame to an increased risk of male infertility. The mechanics of this are also not well understood either. However, any man hoping to start a family should avoid foods that contain this artificial sweetener.

6. Panic Attacks

Just as two much sugar can cause nervous agitation, people who consume some types of artificial sweeteners have reported experiencing panic attacks, which include symptoms including racing heart beats, shortness of breath, feelings of impending doom, and more. People who have a tendency to have panic attacks may also have their attacks triggered by an intake of these sweeteners.

7. Cell Damage

Some of the research on artificial sweeteners has also shown that they can do some damage to cells. For this reason, infants, children, and teenagers should have their intake of artificial sweeteners limited.

8. Depression

Several years ago, a study of the affects of Aspartame on depression involving 40 participants had to be ended prematurely because more than half of the individuals involved had such several reactions to the sweeteners. Mood changes can be severe.

9. Central Nervous System Disorders

Research has shown that Aspartame may also be one of the causes or triggers of many serious central nervous system disorders, including fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis. Many of other diseases have also been connected to this specific type of sweetener which, incidentally, has more health complaints filed against it by consumers than any other additive on the market.

10. Cancer

One of the biggest concerns about these artificial sweeteners has been cancer. There is some research to suggest a higher incidence of bladder cancer (saccharin), cancer of the reproductive organs (aspartame), and more. More research on these connections is still being done.

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healing slowly's picture


I have heard that artificial sweetners can cause cancer I knew of a friend who lost a mother due to cancer and she drank diet soda all the time.
when I was in highschool I drank alot of diet soda myself to get me through the day.I would have stomach cramps daily from it and I would get the shakes.i would also have bouts of constipation and the opposite :P
Now I use one sweetner everytime I have a tea ...in total I may have 5 or6 a day.
Aspartame was a sweetner that would cause me alot of pain.I am now useing a no name sweetner.so what your saying is that in fact sweetners due contain calories.(How can they mislead the consumer listing it falsely)

So what your saying is that a natural sweetner is a healthier choice... NATURALLY:)
I then have to get my mind to change its thinking that a sweetner is not good.

have you heard of a sweetner called STEVIA it is supposed to be close to a natural sweetner.Many health stores carry it.But i don't know if it would be considered a healthy choice to reaplace natural sugar.

would it be safe to say then that sweetners in comparison to natural sugar really are not much different than natural sugars with the exception that they have many side effects and could possibly alter your health.

Healing Slowly

janurse's picture

HS...thank you for sharing your experiences. I have 'heard' a lot about the harmful affects of artificial sweeteners, but until I started researching the facts a bit, I wasn't sure. I have never really used them, except for a short period of time in oatmeal!! Then during recovery, when I set a precedent for myself to not have anything diet or low calorie in my house, I stopped using it. And I have never been one to drink diet sodas. So...I do use sugar whenever I want to sweeten something, and I do not avoid desserts. I would say that artificial sweeteners can be dangerous and cause discomfort, and that sugar, as with any food, is fine, used in moderation. That's my opinion.
Stevia? I have heard of it. I don't know much about it. If you think about it though, if someone has had a restrictive eating disorder, why not stop using anything calorie free or low calorie at all? There is no reason to.
Something to think about....Jan

MJD's picture

WHOA! Thanks for researching this Jan, since I was the one who asked the question. I had no idea! I have recently cut way back on Splenda (I don't use aspartme) but still eat a ton of "sugar free" foods containing sorbitol.
I have been considering Stevia and there are several versions of that on the market now: Truvia, Purvia and a couple others I think., These are promoted as being natural and less harmful.

Even when I use a ton of artifical sweeteners, I still crave sugar. In fact I think artifical sweeteners may heighten my need for "sweetness" since they are generally stronger than pure sugar.

If this is causing my bloating, it's out the door, I can tell you that

Amazing what we don't know....

Thanks again


christa33's picture

molly---i get that craving for sugar also--it is neccessary for the body to have some sugar---im pretty strict with my sugar intake--well now im more flexible with it---but the body does need sugar ---if your sugar goes too low then it is dangerous.

that being said---i put 2 tablespoons of cinnammon in my cereal in the morning---and it is great . cinnammon helps with blood sugar and helps with sugar cravings and keeps the insulin in your blood stable and not spike up or down.
but if you take cinnammon--you still need some sugar in your diet cause i have noticed it can lower your blood sugar too much sometimes.
but cinnammon makes me feel great! and it is good for so many things in your body! i never go a day without it....

since diabetis runs so much in my family, i take it every day to ward it off....


janurse's picture

I'm glad you asked the question...I like researching new areas!! Ask, and you shall recieve!! Take care...Jan

christa33's picture

woweee- thanks jan--im always looking for ways to make me feel better...
you know what i expereince after sugar free drinks??
a migraine headache--definetly is a migraine trigger.
and i feel funny---like tired or weak after i consume artificial sugars.i do not feel good after i drink it.

i have always heard of the negative damaging effects of artificial sugars.

i have a question---i drink gatorade everyday cause my doctor told me to for electrolyte balance--but i drink the sugar free ones....is this bad to drink everyday every other day?
or should i drink the regular gatorade that has more sugar and actually ---frankly makes me feel better than the sugar free ones.
im just kinda scared of the high sugar amount in gatorades....if i drink it everyday....

thanks so much


janurse's picture

Maureen...I have also heard of artificial sweeteners causing migraines.
Regular Gatorade is very low in calories, and I would stay away from anything sugar free and artificially sweetened, but that's me. As you say, you know you feel better when you drink the regular type.
Listen to your body!!

hopeful's picture

Mmmm... I have a diet soda addiction... No doubt about it. And ill effects that I know about... Headaches... Diarrhea... Racing heart... Sometimes shakiness... :P It's such a habit, though... What else would I drink? Not plain old water! ;0) And tea? I sweeten it, too... :P

I'm at a loss...




janurse's picture

Jen...the symptoms that you asked about a few days ago may actually be related to your use of these substances.
Habits can be changed! I know you have said you do not like drinking plain water, but you could probably get use to it if it is very cold.
A good challenge could be to drink fluids that would be part of your daily intake..some juice, tea (naturally sweeteneed-yes, sugar!), lemonade, gatorade, etc. You could make something along those lines to be part of your snack(s). I know it's another big change. I don't downplay it, but you may begin to feel a LOT better giving up the artificial sweeteners.

stonemala's picture

wow, what a lucky stumble- as i accidentally scrolled too far down the page...

NOW? you are all speaking my language! no no no to artificial sweeteners. it's been a long transition, my sisters... but they are banned [except for my liquid satan addiction- i'll save that for another time].

i grew up in a sugar-free household. no sugar. no sweets. no sugary cereals. any type of rare sweet treat was artificially sweetened---therefore *sugar-free*.

this idea that franken-foods were better than what nature provides became my cult. low-fat, low cal, low cholesterol... and sugar-free------ALL IN THE NAME OF GOOD HEALTH... and low weight...and *fitting in* with our culture.

long story short: chemically-jacked-with foods have potential and REAL dangers. i'm the damned blind leading the blind, i know i know... moderation is not my forte. but i am thrilled to see this topic being discussed and researched.

all my love... xo



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