Are Artificial Sweeteners Harmful?

we've been getting a lot of comments and questions about artificial sweeteners you want to know if they're safe we live to serve welcome to healthcare triage people are justifiably suspicious of chemicals I'm fine with that but sometimes that suspicion goes too far sometimes chemicals including drugs do some good there's a definite benefit to artificial sweeteners have you seen our collective waistline recently the important question is are there harms that outweigh the benefits we have a ton of data on whether artificial sweeteners are harmful not all artificial sweeteners are the same saccharin is one of the oldest and made from coal tar according to Mental Floss there have been more than 50 studies written about the effect of saccharin on rats about 20 of them were done in rats consuming saccharin for at least one and a half years 19 of these studies found nothing one study found an increased rate of bladder cancer but it was in a type of rat that gets easily infected with a bladder parasite that can leave it more susceptible to cancer scientists then moved on to see if giving saccharin to two generations of rats would do anything they fed rats and then their rat children lots and lots of saccharin they found that male rats in the second generation got more bladder cancer because of this some countries banned saccharin and others like the United States started labeling products with warnings there was one problem the link between saccharin and cancer couldn't be found in humans ironically later work found that often cancer induced in rats doesn't equal cancer in humans for instance if you give rats vitamin C in the same dose of saccharin in similar studies that causes bladder cancer in rats too yet no one attempts to ban vitamin C there's no real evidence even in the animal models that saccharin is dangerous cyclamate was approved by the FDA for use in the United States in 1950 almost 20 years later a landmark study found that cyclamate increased the rate of wait for it bladder cancer in rats this led to it being banned in a number of countries later the ban was lifted pretty much everywhere but the u.s. always with the rats and their cancerous bladders but in one of those studies you can't believe they actually did some scientists fed 37 monkeys either no cyclamate a hundred milligrams per kilogram of cyclamate or 500 milligrams of cyclamate every day for 24 years by the way 500 milligrams per kilogram is like drinking 30 cans of diet soda a day for 24 years at the end of the study they killed the remaining monkeys and autopsy them three animals in the cyclamate receiving group had cancers but they were different types of cancer in different parts of the body and they were common cancers and monkeys their conclusion was that there was no apparent risk of even consuming that much cyclamate did that change our policy of course not this brings us to aspartame today this seems to be the sweetener of choice when discussing harms approved for use in 1981 it took until 1996 for panic to set it and that year a paper was published to get a lot of attention it discussed the fact that there have been a recent increase in the incidence of brain tumors and question whether this could be linked to aspartame as usually happens with these kinds of things the media had a field day but here's the thing further investigations with National Cancer Institute statistics showed that the increase in brain cancer began in 1973 eight years before aspartame was introduced also most of the increases in tumors were seen in people over 70 who are not huge consumers of diet soda as with vaccines and autism once the myth is out there it's really hard to beat it down a double blinded randomized controlled trial of self-reported aspartame sensitive people showed that aspartame didn't cause headaches a similar study showed that it didn't affect memory behavior mood or even EEG changes another study published in 2006 followed more than 285,000 men and almost 190,000 women and couldn't detect any relationship between aspartame and brain or blood cancer don't bring up methanol and artificially sweetened beverages either analyses show that there's more methanol and a glass of tomato juice or in fruits and vegetables than there is in diet soda some people find diet beverages distasteful for other reasons a few studies have shown that drinking artificially sweetened beverages doesn't promote weight loss or even promotes weight gain more often than not this is because people wind up over compensating for the calorie savings they think they're getting by switching beverages think of the person who orders dessert as a reward for having diet soda but in those cases it's not the diet beverage that cause weight gain its dieters behavior you can even find people who postulate that artificially sweetened beverages trick the brain into wanting more calories but there's really no proof of that finally some will claim that diet drinks will cause the brain to release insulin which can change your metabolism and make you hungry that's a bit hard to swallow that's like saying if you eat sugar dense food that tasted terrible it would trick your brain into not releasing insulin that doesn't happen of course it's the pancreas that releases insulin anyway not the brain the bottom line is that artificially sweetened beverages are safe that doesn't mean you should drink tons of them my wife and I limit our kids consumption of soda to caffeine free diet types but we don't let our children drink them every day we stress moderation and everything including such drinks a study published just a short while ago in JAMA internal medicine found that the added sugar from drinking just one extra 20 ounce Mountain Dew a day is associated with a significantly increased risk of cardiovascular disease you shouldn't make the perfect the enemy of the good given a choice between a sugared soda and a sugar-free soda I'd choose the latter every time there's an abundance of evidence that an overconsumption of sugar is contributing to health problems there's a lack of evidence that our official sweeteners are doing the same


  1. well presented, thank you

  2. Anyone else notice the camera bumping around a bit in this one?

  3. I'm pretty sure the sugar substitute in Diet Coke gives me insomnia. And, no, it's not the caffeine. I'm super sensitive to caffeine, so I know my limits in that regard. Diet Coke affects my sleep worse than a normal Coke drunk at the same time of day. But it's hard to find literature or articles on this, so I wonder…. Anyone know anything about this?

  4. Could you do a video on sugar alcohols? I recently read a couple of places that they can increase loose stool, especially in those with preexisting intestinal problems like IBD and IBS, but their references didn’t seem all that great, and I’d like to know more about whether is does or not, as I fall into the preexisting category. There seems to be a correlation between them and my loose stools, looking at my trigger foods, but obviously the issue of confirmation bias and other contributors make it hard for me to figure it all out and if it really is a causal factor.

  5. What about sucralose? There's a hypothesis that Sucralose alters indigenous bacterial balance in the GIT.

  6. Example 1 of why we don’t believe everything that’s on the internet

  7. You obviously are in the pocket of these companies. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, if I have any artificial sweeteners, I wind up hospitalized. I have a reaction with a migraine, stars, will my left side goes completely paralyzed, I don’t even know who I am anymore and I cannot see, vomiting violently. This only happens when I have an artificial sweeteners. I know many people that get migraines from them. This whole studies show it’s inconclusive is absolute BS. May your money lined pocket Karma find you on your judgment day. So mote it be.

  8. I am not sure if you are aware of this but one of the commercials put before this video was talking about the "unnatural chemicals" being put into food (like artificial sweeteners) during food processing. They then talked about how their "natural" products are better. This is different message than the one you talked about in this video. Little wonder there is confusion about what to believe in Nutritional Science. I feel the advertiser debased what you were trying to say by framing its ideas in the minds of the viewers first before your video played.

  9. Thank you for making this. Alot of my family and friends (including myself) are always hearing horror stories of sweeteners from the internet. It's a relief to hear from a doctor citing peer reviewed studies on the reality of these rumours. I've really appreciated these videos and thank you for making them.

  10. Why is there so much negative press about artificial sweeteners when they haven't been proven harmful? Well, imagine you grew and sold a shit-tonne of corn and/or sugar beet, and you realised that an increase in demand for diet-sodas with no sugar would reduce the price of your produce. So you come up with slander and misinformation about the "supposed benefits" or "potentially cancer causing" artificial sweeteners to try and reduce demand for them, and keep demand for your high-fructose corn syrup nice and high. I could be wrong, but…. what do you think?

  11. Today I Found Out please delete or redo this video you. As an engineer/scientists I find it appalling how videos of such incredibly harmful misinformation get spread. Aspartame is extreme dangerous and it’s rise to acceptance is a terrifying example of the high level corruption that happens in a capitalistic country. Any study you read that ignores or downplays the effects of aspartame are likely sponsored by the very company that has the most to gain from its use. Almost every truly independent study reveals multiple significant side effects.

  12. So artificial sweeters don't have calories?

  13. I use a 1/16 a cup of sweet and low a day in my Tea to use sugar it would take a cup.

  14. I think it all depends on the amount you take in daily

  15. Earned yourself a subscriber great video!

  16. Nothing is dangerous to you. Because you get the info from the source. The makers will not admit what they are selling you is bad.

  17. good video

  18. What about acesulfame potassium??

  19. I just hate sweeteners anyway

  20. I bet these studies were funded by sugar and corn lobbies

  21. Doesn't the brain tell the pancreas to produce insulin?

  22. Bullshit!! Eat aspartame in gum and you'll feel sick or have a headache!!!!!!!!!!!

  23. Thanks for the video love the content!!

  24. I love how people go by the word of the study, yea i rather go with my bodies sense of whats good and bad for it. If you want to live longer and healthier then avoid artificial food and stop over feeding your selves.

  25. Thanks for making this video!

  26. Collective waistline. Americans need to eat less and excercise more.

  27. Hi, Dr. Aaron Carroll- I would love it if you did a video sometime on food intolerance. For me personally, I have a food intolerance towards every no-calorie sweetener I have tried. I get headaches from them, which eventually turns into a migraine if I don't take any pain killers (after about 4-12 hours or so depending on dosage).

    My backstory on this: I never had the problem until I was about 27 or so, and it was intermittent headaches at first for a couple years (meaning I didn't always have a reaction when I ingested no calorie sweeteners), and I didn't know exactly what was causing them. Eventually it became every time I had diet soda, or anything with sacharine, aspartame, stevia or sucralose. Like, 100% of the time, even tho it wasn't like that at first. I could typically feel a sort of "tightening"- within about two minutes of ingesting even about a cup worth of diet soda- in my temples. I've ruled out entirely some sort of psychosomatic or placebo reaction, it happens whether I know there's artificial sweetener in the food or not- on countless occasions after I've gotten a headache then looked up the ingredients of something to find that it had sucralose in it (I also don't have anything against artificial sweeteners). It's something my grandma had too, apparently she would get headaches from diet coke. My dad is a (retired, recently) ER doctor, and if I recall he was fairly certain that it's a food intolerance (on a side note, you must be a pretty good doctor! watching your video was almost spookily verbatim the listening end of conversations I've had with my dad) and said it had something to do with my enzymes being stupid jerks, if I recall.

    I obviously can (and do) research this on my own, but I like your videos a lot!

    Side note to potential commenters: Feel free to refrain from nasty or accusatory comments. I'm not some hippy on a crusade against "unnatural" this or that- But I know when my head hurts; you telling me why It's not the way I say it is and can't possibly be artificial sweeteners at fault does not change that I am me, and I have lived with this for about 7 years now, and have deduced all this with basic pattern recognition skills- It's undoubtedly artificial sweeteners (or natural no-calorie sweeteners). Comments involving facts or educated reasoning are welcome- nay, encouraged.

  28. aspertane tastes like ass

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