Sweet but deadly: The truth about artificial sweeteners and weight loss

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Sugar is bad for you, and I try to stay as sugar free as possible. I even go to the “extreme” of avoiding milk because of the lactose (dairy sugar) in it. But everybody loves a bit of sweetness right? So that’s where sugar alternatives come in.

Actually, sweetness in food is really helpful in making those things which you know are good for you palatable. There are many sugar alternatives available in the market, some natural (like Stevia), others, well, not quite so… It turns out that there are major differences in how they interact with your body and, once again, nature seems to have gotten it right for us.

Those Gut Feelings

So we all know our gut health is pretty important. Doctors and scientists alike are now calling the gut our ‘second brain’. If our gut health is imbalanced or poor, we can’t digest food – mainly vitamins, minerals and all the important stuff that make our bodies function properly! The result is pretty serious, and it has led to many of our modern day diseases.

Poor gut health may contribute to:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Toxin build up
  • Weight gain
  • Insulin resistance
  • Gas / bloating
  • Hair loss
  • Acne
  • Skin problems
  • Low energy


Just to name a few!

So what can we do to avoid poor gut health and even heal our tummies?

Firstly, fermented foods - like sauerkraut, apple cider vinegar and certain yoghurts - are host to millions of beneficial bacteria that help our tummies flourish! Adding a serve to your diet each day can improve gut health significantly.

Secondly, good quality probiotics are also a great option. Be careful to stay away from the cheaper versions as most probiotics are so sensitive to things like heat and travel that they are dead before you actually take them. Thirdly, eating lots of good fibre sources allow the good probiotic bacteria to flourish and doesn’t feed bad bacteria that contribute to poor gut health. This is called creating a ‘symbiotic’ environment – an environment where both you and the good probiotic bacteria mutually benefit.

“Be careful to stay away from the cheaper versions as most probiotics are so sensitive to things like heat and travel that they are dead before you actually take them"

The elephant in the room: Artificial Sweeteners.

Throughout history we have searched for ways to make things… tastier! We traditionally used salt, various herbs and spices and SUGAR. Now we’re caught in the crossfire between a world of social media - with its idealised body images - and modern convenience - where we’re constantly bombarded with convenient, tasty and unhealthy options. We all want to look our best, but the conflict with convenience is there every day. There’s no way we can have both the looks we want and satisfy our tastebuds with traditional tastiness enhancers.

Enter artificial sweeteners: Calorie free, they replicate the taste of sweet sugars. One of the earliest known artificial sweeteners was, quite plainly, toxic. Popular in ancient Rome, it was produced by boiling fruit juices in lead cookware to yield a sweet-tasting syrup containing lead acetate. Today we are well aware of lead toxicity, but it's hard to imagine a more unfortunate (or foreboding!) beginning for the still-controversial artificial sweetener. Whilst being nowhere close to lead in terms of harmfulness, artificial sweeteners are not inert compounds, and are quite capable of producing effects – some negative, some positive – on different systems of the body.

"Artificial sweeteners are not inert compounds, and are quite capable of producing effects – some negative, some positive – on different systems of the body"

The idea behind developing artificial sweeteners was to produce a low-calorie, “non-metabolisable” alternative to sucrose or fructose, whilst producing the same taste, satisfaction and avoiding blood sugar elevations or an insulin response – that can lead directly to diabetes. The rising rate of obesity and the sweet palates of people used to abundance and convenience offered a large market of viable customers. A lot of the research seems to reveal that it wasn't worth the trouble, and in most cases artificial sweeteners actually make problems worse!

The health and supplement industry is LOADED with these sweeteners, mainly Sucralose. In a health or supplement food store, around 99% of powdered flavoured products will contain these sweeteners. This is slowly changing, however many companies do not value the health of their customers, but rather opt to use artificial sweeteners because it’s MUCH easier – and thus cheaper in development time and costs to market - to flavour products with them. Slimtum™ use Stevia, a good quality natural sweetener, to flavour all of our powdered products.

The most common non-caloric artificial sweeteners are Sucralose, aspartame and acesulfame potassium, although the latter is unpopular even among sweeteners.[1] Sucralose is the only one remotely similar in structure to sucrose. Aspartame is synthesised from aspartic acid and phenylalanine, and acesulfame potassium is the most bizarre of the three. The precise structural nature of the human sweetness receptor and the effects produced via its signal transduction pathway had been unknown until 2001, however these artificial sweeteners were available to consume for some two decades prior. A popular natural alternative to these compounds is stevia, a mixture of glycosides extracted from the Stevia rebaudiana plant. Unlike its synthetic counterparts, stevia effectively improves glucose tolerance and insulin response.[2]

The sensation of sweetness is received through taste cell receptors (TRCs) on the tongue. This stimulates the production of α-gustducin, a protein which affects the nervous system by contributing to feelings of satiety, reward, and preparing the digestive system for incoming high-carbohydrate food. The gut also contains taste receptors which respond to sweet-tasting compounds by increasing the activity of enzymes or proteins that aid digestion and nutrient transport.[3] Although artificial sweeteners might seem ideal for someone with poor blood glucose control or weight issues, their consumption paradoxically worsens glucose tolerance and leads to central obesity, dyslipidemia, insulin resistance and high blood pressure.[4] Fortunately, we can see exactly how artificial sweeteners exert their negative effects: changing the gut.

The human gut contains somewhere from 300 to 1000 species of bacteria, collectively termed the “microbiome”. Most of these species share a mutually beneficial relationship with the human host and a small minority are pathogenic.[5] They partake in the synthesis/partial synthesis of vitamins, neurotransmitters, neuropeptides, peptide hormones, hormonal precursors, amino acids and various fatty acids, all of which helps to support the health of the body they are dependent on.[6] An important role for the gut bacteria is to support the integrity of the intestinal mucosal barrier, a single-celled layer that must selectively absorb nutrients, electrolytes and water whilst simultaneously rejecting toxins, antigens and bacteria.[7]


How Do Sweeteners Affect Our Health?

New research is now showing that artificial sweeteners are causing more problems than they were created to solve! They can destroy a healthy gut, leading to problems like:


  • Weight gain
  • Increase in bad bacteria
  • Impaired insulin response
  • Metabolic dysfunction
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Acne
  • Brain disease (Things like Dementia!)
  • Autism
  • Depression

Generally speaking, the first three side effects appear in virtually every person who takes artificial sugars. That’s a grave irony for substances that were engineered specifically for the purposes of avoiding those side effects. The other side effects are less common, but, due to their impact on our quality of life, are worth avoiding all the more.

Identifying the consequences and determining factors regarding gut health is especially relevant in a body-composition context. The anaerobic fermentation of dietary fiber produces short-chain fatty-acids (SCFAs) propionate, acetate and butyrate, the latter playing a critical role in maintaining barrier function of the intestinal wall and providing energy for intestinal epithelial cells.[8] Consumption of sweeteners aspartame and sucralose produces one or more of the following:

  • an increase in total bacteria
  • preferential increase in Firmicutes bacteria
  • reduction in Bacteroidetes bacteria
  • change in SCFA ratios[9][10][11]

Sucralose inhibits the activity of sucrase, an action which suppresses the growth of the Bacteroidetes phyla.[11] The net result is a dramatic increase in SCFAs, particularly propionate. Propionate is gluconeogenic, meaning it is rapidly converted to glucose in the liver and intestines, reducing both glucose and insulin tolerance.[9] The excess SCFAs also stimulate de novo lipogenesis and the development of intrahepatic fat deposits, impairing glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity even further, among other things.[12] Emerging research is not without its contradictory results, and in the case of human studies, SCFA levels and relative fluctuations are difficult to accurately measure in vivo. Direct testing of gut bacteria and their ratios provide more reliable markers for metabolic dysfunction, and hopefully gut dysbiosis will continue to garner recognition as a major causal factor in the development of conditions like obesity, type 2 diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, mitochondrial dysfunction and even Autism.[13][14][15]


Enter the natural option: Stevia

Stevia has been widely hailed as the safest sweetner. For example, in Japan – where all artificial sweeteners have been banned for decades – Stevia is used as the predominant sweetening agent in all low calorie products. Stevia is deemed a natural sweetener, as the extracts used are straight from the plant! Companies are slowly understanding that this is the safest option to sweeten products, however the vast majority still use the big 3 (Sucralose, Aspartame and Acesulfame Potassium).

“Stevia is deemed a natural sweetener, as the extracts used are straight from the plant! Companies are slowly understanding that this is the safest option to sweeten products”

Not only does Stevia taste delicious, but rather than being detrimental, it also has plenty of benefits for your body:
  • Stevia has shown to positivity influence insulin sensitivity in skeletal muscle and pancreatic cells [16][17][18][19]
  • Reduce blood pressure [21][22][23]
  • Zero calores, and safe to use
  • Used for decades in countries like Japan as an alternative to the artificial sweeteners

Slimtum™ products have been designed to be gentle and safe. Slimtum™ have sourced the highest extracts of Stevia, with a high purity of the safe Steviol Glycosides and the most research behind them.

Introducing Slimtum™ ‘Chi’ – Naturally Flavoured and Sweetened


Are you looking for something that isn’t loaded full of nasties, will help you lose weight, aid in recovery, stimulate natural energy and enhance brain function??

What is it?

Chi is a refreshing, one of a kind intra-workout drink, designed to take exercise to a new level of performance and recovery. Completely naturally sweetened and flavoured, with plenty of benefits for your body.

What does Chi do?

Chi uses a combination of vegan amino acids, fat burners, mood enhancement, intricate combinations of adaptogens that will prolong stamina and reduce fatigue, electrolytes and exogenous ketones to aid and increase performance and muscle recovery during exercise and after. Chi will keep you energised and focused during your workout, whilst you lose weight, build muscle and feel your body improve and see results.

"Chi will keep you energised and focused during your workout, whilst you lose weight, build muscle and feel your body improve and see results"

Exogenous Ketones

Chi has been designed to take exercise to a new level of performance and recovery. Chi uses the combination of amino acids, fat burners, mood enhancement, adaptogens (specific combinations that will prolong stamina and reduce fatigue), electrolytes and exogenous ketones.

Exogenous ketone supplements have been abused by a surplus of supplement companies making incorrect claims. Drinking exogenous ketones will not stimulate ketosis. The green light for ketogenesis is depletion of citric acid cycle (CAC) intermediary oxaloacetate and an absence of insulin, which can only be accomplished via carbohydrate depletion, not via ketone supplementation. [15]


Chi Formulation:

Advanced Ketone Blend: goBHB™ - Improves performance, mental clarity, aids in weight loss, decreases inflammation, helps delay aginging process, neuroprotective and decreases muscle breakdown!

Vegan BCAAs: L-Leucine, L-Isoleucine, LValine - Muscle recovery, fat loss, reduced soreness, increase muscle tone

Natural Electrolytes: Coconut water powder – provide essential electrolytes to hydrate and keep the body functioning in an optimal state

Natural Energy: Schisandra Berry, Ginseng, Guarana Seed Extract, Green Coffee Bean Extract – prolong stamina, reduce fatigue and heighten mental focus

Metabolism Enhancement: L-Carnitine-L-Tartrate, Green Tea Extracts – clinically proven to assist the body burn more fat stores

Mood Elevation & Focus: L-Tyrosine, Choline Bitartrate – mood elevation and uplifting positive feelings.

Vitamins: C, B6 and B12 (high quality forms) – ensure we have have enough physical energy to maximise our exercise

What Makes Chi Different To Other Products?

Chi uses clinically dosed ingredients, along with cutting edge science to set a new benchmark for intra-workout supplements and drinks. Chi is completely naturally sweetened with Stevia, rather than Sucralose (which is the main sweetener used in the supplement industry). Unlike Sucralose which is known to destroy gut bacteria and negatively impact insulin levels, Stevia:

  • Positively influences insulin sensitivity in skeletal muscle and pancreatic cells
  • Reduces blood pressure
  • Has zero calories, safe to use
  • Has been used for decades as a healthy alternative to artificial sweeteners 

Chi’s use of high quality Stevia and natural flavouring, resulting in a refreshing drink that is good for you and works to improve results.


Let’s not sugar coat it

At the end of the day, it is important that we take care of ourselves not just externally, but internally as well. There is research available supporting both sides of the argument for and against artificial sweeteners – from private studies paid for by industry, to independent medical and university studies. We’ve provided only the information we have reviewed and personally believe in, but it’s left to you to make your mind up.

When it comes to weight loss and health, Slimtum™ will only make the best products we can believe in, to ensure you’re taken care of inside and out.

- Bryce La Grange for Slimtum

REFERENCES

  1. Popkin B, et al. 2012 Use of Caloric and Noncaloric Sweeteners in US Consumer Packaged Foods, 2005-2009, 'Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics' vol 112 no. 11 pp. 1828 – 1834

  2. Jeppesena PB, Gregersena S, Alstrupa KK, Hermasena K 2002 Stevioside induces antihyperglycaemic, insulinotropic and glucagonostatic effects in vivo: studies in the diabetic Goto-Kakizaki (GK) rats, Phytomedicine, vol 9 no 1

  3. Sclafini, S 2007 Sweet taste signaling in the gut, PNAS, vol 104 no 38

  4. Dhingra R, Sullivan L, Jacques PF, Wang TJ, Fox CS, et al. 2007 Soft drink consumption and risk of developing cardiometabolic risk factors and the metabolic syndrome in middle-aged adults in the community, Circulation, vol 116 pp. 480 – 488

  5. Guarner F, Malagelada JR 2003 Gut flora in health and disease, The Lancet, vol 361 no 9356

  6. Clarke G, Stilling RM, Kennedy PJ, Stanton C, Cryan JF, Dinan TG 2014 Minireview: Gut Microbiota: The Neglected Endocrine Organ, Molecular Endocrinology, vol 28 no 8

  7. Groschwitz KR, Hogan SP, 2014 Intestinal Barrier Function: Molecular Regulation and Disease Pathogenesis, The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Endocrinology, vol 124 no 1

  8. Peng L, Li ZR, Green RS, Holzman IR, Lin J 2009 Butyrate Enhances the Intestinal Barrier by Facilitating Tight Junction Assembly via Activation of AMP-Activated Protein Kinase in Caco-2 Cell Monolayers, The Journal of Nutrition, vol 139 no 9
  9. Palmnäs M, Cowan T, Bomhof M, Su J, Reimer R, Vogel H, Hittel D, Shearer J 2014 'Low-Dose Aspartame Consumption Differentially Affects Gut Microbiota-Host Metabolic Interactions in the Diet-Induced Obese Rat', PLOS One, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0109841

  10. Ley RE, Turnbaugh PJ, Klein S, Gordon JI 2006 'Microbial ecology: human gut microbes associated with obesity', Nature, vol 444 pp. 1022 – 1023
  11. Rettig S, Tenewitz J, Ahearn G, Coughlin C 2014 'Sucralose causes a concentration dependent metabolic inhibition of the gut flora Bacteroides, B. fragilis and B. uniformis not observed in the Firmicutes, E. faecalis and C. sordellii', The FASEB Journal, vol 28 no 1
  12. Vijay-Kumar M, et al. 2015 'Microbiota-Dependent Hepatic Lipogenesis Mediated by Stearoyl CoA Desaturase 1 (SCD1) Promotes Metabolic Syndrome in TLR5-Deficient Mice', Cell Metabolism, vol 22 no 6
  13. MacFabe DF, Cain NE, Boon F, Ossenkopp KP, Cain DP 2011 'Effects of the enteric bacterial metabolic product propionic acid on object-directed behavior, social behavior, cognition, and neuroinflammation in adolescent rats: Relevance to autism spectrum disorder', Behavioral Brain Research, vol 217 pp. 47 – 54.
  14. Lee KJ, Tack J 2010 'Altered intestinal microbiota in irritable bowel syndrome,' Neurogastroenterology & Motility, vol 22 pp. 493 – 498
  15. Nieuwdorp M, et al. 2011 'The therapeutic potential of manipulating gut microbiota in obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus', Diabetes Obesity and Metabolism, vol 14 no 2 pp. 112 – 120
  16. Anton, S., Martin, C., Han, H., Coulon, S., Cefalu, W., Geiselman, P. and Williamson, D. (2010). Effects of stevia, aspartame, and sucrose on food intake, satiety, and postprandial glucose and insulin levels. Appetite, 55(1), pp.37-43.
  17. Lailerd, N., Saengsirisuwan, V., Sloniger, J., Toskulkao, C. and Henriksen, E. (2004). Effects of stevioside on glucose transport activity in insulin-sensitive and insulin-resistant rat skeletal muscle. Metabolism, 53(1), pp.101-107.
  18. Lailerd, N., Saengsirisuwan, V., Sloniger, J., Toskulkao, C. and Henriksen, E. (2004). Effects of stevioside on glucose transport activity in insulin-sensitive and insulin-resistant rat skeletal muscle. Metabolism, 53(1), pp.101-107.
  19. Mohd-Radzman, N., Ismail, W., Jaapar, S., Adam, Z. and Adam, A. (2013). Stevioside fromStevia rebaudianaBertoni Increases Insulin Sensitivity in 3T3-L1 Adipocytes. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2013, pp.1-8.
  20. Shivanna, N., Naika, M., Khanum, F. and Kaul, V. (2013). Antioxidant, anti-diabetic and renal protective properties of Stevia rebaudiana. Journal of Diabetes and its Complications, 27(2), pp.103-113.
  21. Chan, P., Xu, D., Liu, J., Chen, Y., Tomlinson, B., Huang, W. and Cheng, J. (1998). The effect of stevioside on blood pressure and plasma catecholamines in spontaneously hypertensive rats. Life Sciences, 63(19), pp.1679-1684.
  22. Hsieh, M., Chan, P., Sue, Y., Liu, J., Liang, T., Huang, T., Tomlinson, B., Chow, M., Kao, P. and Chen, Y. (2003). Efficacy and tolerability of oral stevioside in patients with mild essential hypertension: A two-year, randomized, placebo-controlled study. Clinical Therapeutics, 25(11), pp.2797-2808.
  23. Jeppesen, P., Gregersen, S., Rolfsen, S., Jepsen, M., Colombo, M., Agger, A., Xiao, J., Kruhøffer, M., Ørntoft, T. and Hermansen, K. (2003). Antihyperglycemic and blood pressure-reducing effects of stevioside in the diabetic Goto-Kakizaki rat. Metabolism, 52(3), pp.372-378.
  24. Kesl, S., Poff, A., Ward, N., Fiorelli, T., Ari, C., Van Putten, A., Sherwood, J., Arnold, P. and D’Agostino, D. (2016). Effects of exogenous ketone supplementation on blood ketone, glucose, triglyceride, and lipoprotein levels in Sprague–Dawley rats. Nutrition & Metabolism, 13(1).