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For this nutrition edition of the Community Conversation, Prototype Nutrition Coach Jon Collette and Prototype Nutrition’s Registered Dietitian, Sam Russo will be discussing Artificial Sweeteners. If you’re looking to learn more about nutrition for yourself or pick up some good eating habit tips, you will want to check this out!
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Thank you for tuning in to the community conversation brought to you by protein training system home of CrossFit prototype seminar back of another nutrition episode to help provide you with some education and strategies to better your nutrition while still enjoying your social life. There’s a lot of misinformation on nutrition and we aim to provide you with some clarity. Today we wanted to talk about artificial sweeteners what they are and talk about whether they are safe or not safe to use. So segue into this. Sam, what are some of the most common artificial sweeteners? Just we have an idea of what we’re talking about?
Yeah, so I think the ones that people see most often are probably the ones that they like go to a diner or like a restaurant they see on the table. So like equal is made from aspartame was sweet and low is the one that saccharin and then I think Splenda is the one that sucralose Um, and then there’s like a handful of other ones like stevia and the raw i think is like been a recent addition. But those are like the three major ones that we’ve seen for years and years, I’m sure of the like zero or very low calorie sweeteners.
Right. So the big thing on artificial sweeteners and why people get you know, up in roars about them is that they don’t contain any calories. So what the heck are they? So, you want to give us an example of what’s happened? Like what’s like, what is the artificial sweetener process? Like how is it being produced, whether it’s natural or synthetic?
Yeah, um, so the natural ones, like we said, they’re like, stevia is a natural one. And like we said, it’s like newer to the like, low calorie sweetener world. So we don’t necessarily know as much about how that affects the body, I think as some of the quote unquote, synthetic or like manmade sweeteners. And basically what’s happening is, sugar as a whole is made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, like c, h and o are like the chemical abbreviations. I’m sure everyone listening has taken high school chemistry and has, like, at some point, experienced at least looking at the periodic table. So those three elements are the ones that make up normal sugar. And so what happens is to turn sugar, like table sugar into an artificial sweetener, by removing some of the hydrogen and oxygen molecules and then replacing it with chlorine molecules. So basically, it’s just like swapping out the O’s and ages and putting in a CL, which still is very safe still is totally okay for the body because it’s like a natural element that is found in other foods and other beverages.
Cool. So I’m Sam. Is it safe to have artificial sweeteners? And do we know that for a fact? Is there any research on artificial sweeteners in their safety?
Yes. It’s been many years since artificial sweeteners hit the market, and that we’ve been using them for quite some while and there is plenty of research that has been done on artificial sweeteners. And we’re going to spend quite some time today talking about the things that we have researched for everyone. And also for our own personal benefit. I think like we’re interested in knowing like, is it safe for us to personally take and then we can recommend it to other people. So yes, research galore on artificial sweeteners, lots of different studies, some good some not so good. And so it’s important that like, when we’re looking into it, we kind of figure out the limitations of all the studies. But by and large, the like result of all the studies, which I’m sure we’ll get into a couple is that yes, artificial sweeteners are safe for you to have and also can be really effective in a diet for someone who is either diabetic or trying to lose weight, or trying to manage their sugar intake in any way, shape, or form. Now, john, do you want to kind of dive into some of the things maybe like, we talked about a minute or two that we’ve heard about artificial sweeteners, and then we can kind of dive into the science behind it?
Um, yeah, so artificial sweeteners are sensors, synthetic, and they are made in a lab and they’re not all natural, is that there’s a worry that consuming chemicals is going to cause you know, you know, issues with our gut health or there’s going to be there’s a fear of cancer, and there’s all these assumptions based off of, I think things that are put out in the media with, we don’t know what these things are. Exactly. So we’re going to assume that they’re not good for us and they are bad for us to have. Um, but the benefits of having some of these things in moderation is going to be that because they do not contain calories. It’s an easier way to be able to have some of those sweet things in your diet without having to have a lot of calories to be able to match that now, I’m drawing a blank on the Sam is I believe it’s like 600 times sweeter sucralose is to sugar. So it doesn’t take a very large amount of some of these artificial sweeteners to be able to give you that same sweetness as sugar. So if we wanted to have, for example, if we want to have cream and sugar and or coffee, versus having, you know, a pack or two of Splenda, or equal, whichever your taste preferences, you’re not going to get calories, or at least you’re going to get very few calories from that versus having to have several tablespoons of sugar in order to get that same taste. So there’s research on artificial sweeteners being a way of being able to feel more, being able to maintain a calorie controlled diet because of the fact that you’re able to have those sweet things in there without having to consume the calories that go along with it. So it’s just like an adherence tool. So instead of being like, okay, like, I can’t have sugar, you can have the sugar substitute and still get that sweetness, it’s not going to cause you to crave sugar more, it’s absolutely for based off of some of the things that are out there and studies is that people just consume less because they’re able to have you know that Diet Coke, and then it’s, you know, they can move on with with their day versus having to restrict, restrict, restrict, and then over consume that because it’s something that you’re not able to have. So if you can implement artificial sweeteners as a nutritional strategy, then it’s a good tool. Now, Sam, we have numbers on what based off FDA what safety is on some of these things? You want to talk about that a little bit?
Yeah, so the FDA recommends like an upper limit of artificial sweeteners and for sucralose, and like we’ll probably mostly talk about sucralose, because I think it’s just like the most commonly researched one. The upper limit is 50 grams, I’m sorry, 50 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. So what that means, like broad scope is for someone who’s 150 pounds, that brings them to about 3400 milligrams per day, which is like nearly 20 cans of Diet Coke, worth of worth of sucralose to get in a day. It’s a lot it’s a high upper limit before it becomes unsafe. Now, the vast majority of people are not drinking 20 diet cokes a day. That’s like more than a two liter bottle. It’s quite a lot. That’s like almost an hour to fit in. I’m sure there are people. There’s probably bigger issues if you are right. At the end of the day, if you’re drinking 20 diet cokes, like you probably feel terrible just because of the carbonation right? Like it has nothing to do with the sucralose it’s like carbonation is going to kill you before the sucralose does. upper limit is pretty high of these artificial sweeteners. Well, this
just made me think about like a whole nother avenue of things is that there’s always going to be you know, correlation does not mean causation. So if someone was having multiple diet cokes, let’s say someone was having 20 diet cokes a day. Do you think that’s the only thing in that person’s life that is not healthy behavior? So is it the artificial sweetener? That is the issue? Or is it the fact that that person’s probably also not exercising? That person’s probably also eating too much processed food to begin with? Um, you know, there’s so many different things that aren’t always taken into consideration when, you know, focusing on one little thing, like if a study was done on artificial sweetener, like they’ve done some of these things on rats, and they blast them with like, I don’t know, like 400 times the dosage that is anyone would normally have anyways, then they’re like, Okay, this is there is a potential for harmful effects on the body. It’s, well, who would have that dosage to begin with, and, you know, that’s not done in a human as well as what the hell else is going on in that person’s life that is causing them to take in that much of that one, that one substance watch, whether it’s a sweetener, or it’s sugar, you know, whatever, whatever it is, um, I think that’s something to take into consideration whenever you read The article or hear something in the media is, well, if these things are harmful, then what? You know, in what context? Is it harmful? And what dosage and, you know, are there other factors that are probably that go along with that thing that is causing that to not be good for their good for their health?
That’s a great point. And you sound very popular today with that, was that your phone that just made? But do you know that you’re usually a turn it off right away? But um, you know, it’s a good point that like nutrition research is really hard to control, just because there are so many other factors, right? So if, like, we are participants in a study, and even if we eat the same exact thing in the study, because that’s what we’re told to do, like you and I still live different lives. So there’s like factors outside of a studies control that make it really hard to have like coherent nutrition research that says Like, this is a proven fact, just because there’s so many other confounding factors. So yeah, read everything with a grain of salt. And it’s something that I think we touched on yesterday, we had looked at that article about like, does sweetener artificial sweeteners cause any gut health issues or any other changes to the body? And it’s like we can we found an incredible study a double blind, randomized controlled trial, which is like a really good thing in the science world. What was it it was on healthy adults ages like in their 20s 24? Yeah, yeah, average BMI. And like, the end result was that in this like, high volume of participants that artificial sweeteners did not cause any real changes in the gut health. Artificial sweeteners ended up in the poop, completely unchanged, meaning that it did not affect what was inside the bottom. Now, it was like an excellent study, and we got a lot of great information out of it. But again, like these are young 20 something year olds that are probably doing things outside of the study that can’t be controlled for.
Right. Um, so do you? Do we know off the top of your head, Sam, like so? Whenever something is put out in the grocery store versus in a supplement? That has to be approved by the FDA? Yep. Correct. So the FDA also has, they have their like, they have like a upper limit of what their safety is, but it’s like the upper limit of what’s going to save their astronaut getting in trouble if something did happen, you know, what’s the FDA is limit? And then what’s like, what’s the real like limit of what’s been shown on some of these sweeteners?
Yeah, so I actually don’t know off the top of my head, john, what the upper limit for real is, the FDA, FDA is the one that does say 50 milligrams per kilogram of body weight, like turning on every word today. Um, and honestly, going by the FDA recommendations is a pretty good idea for the general public. Um, there’s always again, those populations that like probably don’t call it like pregnant women. We don’t have a ton of research on pregnant women with this stuff, because no one wants to do tests on pregnant women. So like, I don’t know, I can’t say with confidence that 50 milligrams per kilogram is a good idea for pregnant women to intake of like sucralose. Now, realistically, that’s probably not the true upper limit, there’s probably more sucralose and artificial sweeteners that can be taken in during the day that like that might be the limit of where things start to change, right? Like where we might see an adjustment in the gut microbiome, or within like, spikes in blood sugar, you know, but 50 milligrams per kilogram per day is FDI. So that’s what I go up to.
Right. Now, what are your thoughts on when you hear and you probably hear this from your clients as I do is I don’t want to consume chemicals. What’s like, what’s your what’s your thought on consuming chemicals?
Everything is a chemical. We like opened up and then I talked at the beginning, right? Like, at its base sugar is made of like three different elements. Artificial sweeteners are those same three elements and then just plus one more. The same thing happens with fats like we can mechanically change around fatty acids. to like, I’m sure you’ve seen like on nutrition labels like saturated fats versus trans fats, versus monounsaturated fats like those can be mechanically change to from one to the next. And it’s just about like breaking the chemical bonds and switching things around. So all of these things are chemicals like sugar is a chemical, whether it’s manmade or whether it’s natural in the world. We chemicals all day every day. World is made up of chemicals. So yeah, when people say I don’t want to eat anything chemical, or like, you know, I don’t want to eat bad chemicals like chemicals or think like yeah, don’t go drink like pool chlorine. That would be bad in jest, but but like as part of this compound it is a okay in the body.
Yeah and like, sometimes natural isn’t even always the safest or surest way of you know going along with nutrition right so yeah, now oil. Oil is natural and comes out of the ground but you can’t consume that and neither can consume poison ivy either just because it’s a plant arable imagine poison ivy like, oh, now plantain let you take a wilderness course is what you’re saying? Did you ever read the book into the wild? There’s a movie on it too. No, but I heard it’s good. It’s very good. But the guy like he wants to, like get away from like society and things like that. So he like hitchhiked to Alaska meets all these people on the way and by the time it gets to Alaska. There’s no more deer or anything like that. So he’s basically running out of food. And he’s like starving. So he goes and eats a bunch of berries, and then realizes that they’re poisonous. And it’s such a sad ending. Like, it’s a real story. Yeah, hot, the guy ended up dying of eating poisonous berries. But anyways, Euler is going well, it’s happened a long time ago. This is from 2000. But, um, anyways, I don’t know, I just thought of that the natural and artificial argument is kind of silly, because sometimes natural things aren’t always best. And like Sam mentioned earlier in podcasts is that there’s more research on sucralose and aspartame than there is on stevia, which isn’t to say that stevia is unsafe, it’s to say that there’s actually more evidence to show that one is safer than the other. So if you are going to make your recommendations based off of natural versus unnatural, you might want to think about what evidence says towards what you’re going to be putting into your body. One of the biggest things is that when we, you know, a lot of downsides are things that can go along with poor health is just over consuming calories over a long period of time, and not having healthy lifestyle factors, like not exercising it, you know, fruits and vegetables. So there’s so many things that go into making a healthy diet versus just looking at one thing alone. So if you are overly concerned about artificial sweeteners, then if you can go without it, that’s fine. But if you struggle with if you’re the same person that says that you’re, you know, you’re addicted to sugar, and you have a hard time controlling sugar, so you cut it out of your diet altogether, then maybe exploring the option of having, you know, maybe it’s that little bit of sucralose in your coffee, or having, you know, you know, some lower calorie options, like, I don’t know, maybe it’s a frozen yogurt that has sucralose in it versus having one that has 30 grams of sugar. Think about some of those things that might make your diet not feel so miserable, but also allow you to have some of those sweet things into your diet. But
now, john, I know you and I both use artificial sweeteners. So let me give some examples of how we use them in our day. What do you do
um, my coffee I so I’ve actually gone back and forth the best so my coffee in the morning. I used to be coffee creamer that has I think it’s it’s like eight grams of sugar per tablespoon or something like that. And then it’s like a gram and a half of that. So it’s more just like the calories that come from the sugar. So just a little bit more carbohydrates that I switched over to the sugar free not because they don’t consume sugar, but because they’re replacing sugar with sucralose, which for me, doesn’t bother my stomach and I like the taste of it as well. It seems me because I like to have three tablespoons instead of having you know 40 calories per tablespoon and having 120 calories come from my coffee, I can have a coffee that I enjoy and have 35 calories in my coffee creamer. So that one little thing right there allows me to have 100 more calories of food that I want to eat. So you know I can have an apple which is roughly 100 calories and I haven’t you know I’m still an equal with what I’ve had. So it’s less of a like I have it in the context of I’m avoiding sugar. It’s I have the artificial sweetener in my coffee because I don’t want to have black coffee all the time. And that’s what I did to be able to save calories when I’m like, you know what, like, I really enjoyed my morning coffee. So if I implement sweetener, then I can still enjoy my coffee without having a significant amount of calories. And it just just prefer
Yeah, and tastes good. Exactly. Yeah. What about you? Well, I chew gum all day every day. And that is definitely full of artificial sweeteners. It’s like a rare moment if you see me without gum. So that’s like the number one for me. Gatorade, I have the Gatorade zero that has artificial sweeteners in it. I personally like can’t do a ton because it does bother my stomach like that is I have a whole slew of gi issues that I don’t know anybody needs to ever hear. But I can’t I can’t have too much it does bother my stomach. So yeah, my gum and like Gatorade I’ll have but I have friends who are diabetic. So they’ll have like a diet sprite if we’re like out somewhere. And like used as a mixer, like diet soda has its place. And I think there’s like plenty of instances where either I’ve been places or my my diabetic friends have been places where it’s like been a really good thing to have. Unless they’re going into like, diabetic shock, in which case we need sugar ASAP. Yeah, like I, I use it and I have a lot of friends that use it as well.
Now, that’s a good point with the diet sodas, because, you know, some of us want to have alcohol, but we you know, don’t want to just have vodka and seltzer water. So if you do a diet coke and whiskey, then you know, you can have like 60 or 80 calories depends on how many ounces or whatever you have in your drink. But that’s usually where a lot of calories come from is going to be all the juices and stuff like that, that you’re having in your in your in your cocktail. So if you’re someone that likes to have, you know, a drink, you know, on the weekend, one or two, you know, what usually goes with alcohol is going to be food. So it’s just a strategy to be able to not over consume on liquid calories, which is just like a good rule to have in general is don’t have too many calories coming from liquid because liquid isn’t going to be overly filling. So you use artificial sweeteners and some of your liquid. Some of your instead of having calories coming from your liquid and you have that you can still have that similar taste, which is more of what we’re going for. It’s less of going you’re not you’re not having a cocktail for a source of calories. You’re having a cocktail because it’s a social thing. And it’s enjoyable to have a have a drink so yeah.
And diet soda as a mixer leads to getting that buzz quicker. Like the chemical reaction that happens diet soda helps it happen faster. I did not know that. Yeah, that’s the one thing I learned in college that I will probably never forget.
That’s I yeah, I never knew that diet soda. So you can be a cheap date with diet soda. Interesting. Yeah. Nothing away from this podcast know that that’s actually a scientific fact. Um, okay, so you guys have some context behind how to use artificial sweeteners. I use it my coffee, Sam uses it as a instead of having water all the time she uses to help her hydrate with having like a Gatorade zero or Vitamin Water zero that does not contain calories. And sometimes it’s just an easier way to get fluid in. Um, and you have to know what feels right for you. Like Sam said, Sam has too much of a certain sweetener doesn’t sit right with her. Some people they have too much aspartame, they get headaches, everyone is individualized. So you kind of got to know what works for you. And I’m sure if your diet is too heavy in artificial sweeteners, then you’ll probably notice that you don’t feel great having it but
yeah, have you ever looked up? The Amazon reviews for sugarfree gummy bears? No, no. Okay, well, you know you do in your spare time. I don’t know how this came up. But this is a thing it was like I think it was a meme going around for a while. Spoiler alert. If you eat an entire like four pound bag of sugar free gummy bears, you will have to poop.
Unknown Speaker 24:43
Yes, some people have instantly. That’s the way to do it. You’re constipated. That’s the way to do it,
I guess so. I wouldn’t recommend ingesting food to give yourself diarrhea but Cuz that would not be my goal. Some people occasionally want to diarrhea. Yeah. Oh man, we’re we’re kind of going off the deep end now. Let’s bring it back. Yeah touched on what they are we touched on how we use, we touched on that, yes, they are very much safe there is an upper limit, we don’t really have research beyond that upper limit, at least in humans because, well, it’s probably not smart to just throw a ton of aspartame into someone’s body and hope for the best, right? Like we have to do this safely and scientifically. But through the years of research, we found that yes, well, not we personally but you know, scientists in the world, I found that, yes, artificial sweeteners can and very likely should be used in a healthy, overall well rounded diet. For the vast majority of people, there’s nothing really to be scared of, obviously, you have to go with based on what’s okay with your body, but really, by and large, it is safe, safe for consumption and safe for use. And it can be a great tool, depending on what your goals are with nutrition. With that said, john, do you have anything else to add? Before we close this thing out?
Um, I mean, I feel like there’s no need to be overly concerned with artificial sweeteners and having them in your diet. And like we mentioned, if it helps you control your calories, then it is going to be helpful for you, especially if you are in a calorie deficit where you are trying to lose weight. Those can be easy ways to implement some lower calorie options without having made drastic changes to your diet. So if you feel fine having it then habit, and if you don’t have a lot in your diet, and you rapidly increase it, then expect that you may not feel great, that doesn’t mean that the artificial sweetener is bad for you, it means that you’re probably having more than your body’s used to having whenever we have something that our bodies aren’t used to having, we’re gonna have some type of reaction, whether we’re bloating or having little gas. So know yourself and whether something works for you or not, and your diet is totally based upon you. But based off the evidence that’s out there on artificial sweeteners it is safe to have.
And next time you see a news article that says this food is killing you look on Google Scholar, or come to one of us, and we can do the research for you to find out if that’s actually true. Or if that’s just a nice little clickbait headline for you to like, be swayed by there’s always a reason behind those headlines. Most of time, they’re not sure.
Yeah, it’s like people to ignore is Dr. Oz, Mark Hyman. All those guys out there that blast sugar and artificial sweeteners and just make assumptions. You know, why don’t you critically think a little bit more about some of the stuff and follow scientists versus people that are trying to benefit off of your purchasing their product or their detox pill or whatever it is that they’re diagnosing you with that issue? That’s a very common thing that you’ll find is, do you feel this way? buy my product, here’s the here’s the problem. Here’s the solution. And it’s usually a marketing tool in order to get you to spend money on something. So try not to do be so fearful of things and jump to conclusions. Slow down and think a little bit. Most of the time, it’s not as big of a deal of it’s blown out to be on the media.
It’s true. That’s why we’re here. Bring all the scientific evidence to light. So with all that, we’ll close it out. Thank you again for listening to this podcast. Hopefully we’ve touched on something and giving you some new information today. If you have any more questions or any other ideas for topics in the future, please do let us know reach out to john or myself and we hope you have a wonderful day.