The Danger of Natural Sweeteners

While some say they are calorie-free, that doesn’t mean they are good for you.

Let’s just cut straight to the point: natural sweeteners and sugar alcohols have been just as problematic as sugar and artificial sweeteners in over 80% of the 14,000 clients I’ve worked with over the last decade. 

It doesn’t matter how good their diet is, whether they’re men or women, or how active they are, natural sweeteners prove to be counterproductive towards my client’s achieving their health goals. Common examples you’ve likely heard of include stevia, xylitol, erythritol or Swerve.

Many people report the following when they choose to consume natural sweeteners and sugar alcohols on a regular basis:

  • Trouble losing weight
  • Inability to reduce glucose and A1c levels
  • Struggle to fasting due to intense hunger pangs
  • Stomach issues, such as abdominal pain and diarrhea 

I understand why people don’t want to cut the sweeteners out right away. You’re already making overwhelming adjustments to your diet and lifestyle as it is. I get it. I’ve been there myself. 

But if you really want to reach your health goals, you should actively try to scale back and stop consuming them on a regular basis.

These so-called natural sweeteners, which are often heavily proce

ssed, have been used for decades. We’ve not yet met anybody who switched to sweeteners and lost a lot of weight, and we certainly have not seen the diabetes epidemic go away. 

Even though they don’t contain many calories, they still stimulate insulin, which drives weight gain. This is the opposite of everything we’re trying to achieve through fasting or low-carb dieting. 

It’s not that you can never use natural sweeteners or sugar alcohols, but it is important to save them for special occasions. Think: holiday baking, special occasions or a weekly or monthly treat.

Patient show results almost immediately after cutting them from their feasting and fasting routines. The most surprising feedback from most is how quickly they start to feel better and are able to fast after discontinuing the sweeteners. Within a few days of cutting them out most people notice improvement in their digestion, blood sugar levels, and start to experience weight loss.

So, if artificial and natural sweeteners are slowing down your progress, try to avoid the following: 

  • Agave
  • Aspartame
  • Acesulfam-K
  • Allulose
  • Artificial sweeteners (aspartame, acesulfame K, saccharin, sucralose, Splenda, etc)
  • Beet Sugar
  • Cane Sugar
  • Coconut Palm Sugar
  • Erythritol (Swerve)
  • Fructose
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Honey
  • Malt
  • Maple Syrup
  • Monk Fruit
  • Sucralose
  • Stevia
  • Xylitol

 

By Megan Ramos

2019-10-03T11:46:01-04:0051 Comments

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Frances Tracy
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Frances Tracy

You seriously grouped high fructose corn syrup with stevia! In my layman’s opinion stevia and monk sugar doesn’t raise insulin.

Jim
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Jim

I agree any proof of these sweeping claims seems absent in total. It might be good intent, but give up on all choices seems premature or self serving. I agree fasting is a giant need, and it’s not easy for some reason.

RobC
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RobC

I believe the point is, if you are having trouble fasting then cut out all the sweeteners for a couple weeks and see if it helps. If you aren’t having trouble fasting and consuming sweeteners during your eating window is working for you, no need to change anything.

This article is stating, people in their idm groups have an easier time loosing weight and controlling cravings when they cut out all sweeteners.

For me, I noticed when I cut out my morning coffee and drink salted water it was easier to get my extended fasts started (more than 24 hours).

Craig
Guest
Craig

How could you possibly have worked with 14,000 unique clients over a ten year period? That is 1400 per year or almost 4 people per day every day for every 365 days of the year. I find such a claim to be beyond belief and therefore find anything else you say to be suspect.

Howie
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Howie

What is wrong with Stevia? I use NOW brand BETTER STEVIA ORGANIC.
HOWIE

Craig
Guest
Craig

I have read that Fructose does not stimulate insulin production like glucose does. If that is true then there is something other than the sweet taste that causes insulin production. Thus if stevia causes the pancreas to produce insulin then it isn’t because of it’s sweet taste.

Steve b
Guest
Steve b

read the diabetes code…you will be enlightened on that question and many others

Kevin Stephani
Guest
Kevin Stephani

You forgot the dreaded Maltitol, inulin and chicory root fiber. I love me some Rebel Ice Cream but can count on sticky high blood glucose for the better part of the next day unless I exercise after it eating it…

Michelle Lamont
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Michelle Lamont

I guess this mean sugar free gum too? I have been having trouble fasting g latelyand getting frustrated with a palteau. I have recently started chewing sugar free gum. I am not a fan of any artificial sweeteners but read that gum cam help you get through a fast. I was dabbling with ADF an thought it would help. Guess I will be cutting out the gum!

Kerry Wood
Guest
Kerry Wood

If you really need gum, this unflavored, unsweetened gum from Turkey called Falim worked for my wife: https://www.amazon.com/Falim-100-Chewing-Gum-Damla-Sakizli/dp/B005GR1WO0/ref=mp_s_a_1_3?keywords=falim+gum+unflavored&qid=1570393004

Brenda M
Guest
Brenda M

Yes, Falim is great–just mastic. I have chewed it for five years. One piece lasts for days and days.

Tom M
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Tom M

Excellent advice. I believe that many sugars are part fructose or break down into part fructose and part insulin of which fructose is about the worst substance you can give your body.

Adriana
Guest
Adriana

After losing close to 50#, I succumbed to the lure of sweeteners. I immediately stopped losing weight! They are evil.

Nicole
Guest
Nicole

I am a little confused and would appreciate clarification: You say that “they still stimulate insulin”. While there are definitely strong arguments for letting go of anything sweetened and/or processed, Dr. Fung has quoted studies that state that Erythritol (Swerve) does not raise insulin or glucose levels. https://www.dietdoctor.com/low-carb/keto/sweeteners#erythritol and https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27117004
What is your thought there regarding (specifically) Erythritol and insulin levels?

Sindy Smith
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Sindy Smith

Hi Megan,,
So I am super curious about this. I have seen where people test their blood sugar levels after eating some of these different sweeters and they have no insulin change? Like with with Allulose and monk fruit there is no change. I am just curious if your lab has done tests like that to see if levels change after eating these product. I am sure honey and maple change the insulin but just curious about the others?

Thank you for all your helpful advise!

Robert Chappell
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Robert Chappell

For me it’s been working okay. During my eating window I often use equal sweetener. During my fasting window I sometimes drink diet soda. Still losing and feeling great. I understand all the concerns about aspartame but some of them are overblown.

Steve b
Guest
Steve b

overblown? they say it creates holes in your brain. i am convinced it is connected to parkinsons disease. there is a lot of evidence against aspartame. the fda banned it or didnt allow it to market until donald rumsfeld became president of searle and pushed it onto the market. the funny thing is it tastes better than any other sweetner besides sugar imo. i also read something a ways back that said there is two types of stevia and the north america gets the krap one because if we had the good one no one would use sugar. I think… Read more »

Susan
Guest

What sweetener can be used that does not raise blood sugar and/or insulin?

Jordan Silverberg
Guest
Jordan Silverberg

Do you have any scientific evidence that Stevia, Erythritol or Monk Fruit raise insulin levels? For me, I started Keto/IDM on May 5th with a A1C of 6.6 and 221 lbs, 4 months later my A1C is 6.0 and weight was 195 but that is using a ton of Stevia, Erythritol and Sucraloss products. I would have expected it to be much lower since I had zero sugars or carbs except for the allowed veggies. I can’t find any studies saying that those non-caloric sweeteners raise insulin or A1C. I think you are correct but would like to see more… Read more »

Jim
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Jim

This article not just implies, but states that use of sugar alcohol or Stevia as substitute for sugar not only is not helpful, it is a precise barrier to weight loss and improvement of A1C. For most everybody. No evidence. Why would you criticize an entire list of use of older and new products saying only it’s ” our experience?? “

Trisha Keller
Guest
Trisha Keller

So what do we use when we get a “sweet” craving?

Filipe Jorge Silva
Guest
Filipe Jorge Silva

Unfortunately everynight  I drink 1/2 litter of water with lemon and a teaspoon of stevia, this because I breathe trough the mouth and if I wakeup I have the mouth very dry, so taking in consideration this article what do you suggest to give some taste to the water? Thanks

Giova Gallagher
Guest
Giova Gallagher

I have upper airway resistance syndrome and must use a cpap machine. This is not related to weight; unfortunately I choke on my tongue when I sleep. I get a horribly dry mouth, even with distilled water in my machine, and must use xylitol lozenges along my gums. Yes they are a thing! I still managed to lose weight using an extremely low carb diet and intermittent fasting. But do you have other suggestions? Biotene rinse simply isn’t enough.

Amy Sung
Guest
Amy Sung

I was very skeptical about lumping Stevia and Monkfruit in the harmful “natural sweetener “ bunch. Finally I have done over a dozen 3+ days fasts including 2 5-day fasts….. I have my keto mojo with me to test before and after sweetener cinnamon tea consumption during the fast. My own results are aligned with your article: 1) pure water fast without any sweetener produce average 1lb/day weight loss and even after gigantic feast refeed the weight does not rebound after digestion is completed.The refeed even include regular sweetener item but when consumer in such a small amount and only… Read more »

JESSICA A MONCADA
Member
JESSICA A MONCADA

I think the point here is moderation as mentioned in the article. It’s rare that I use a sweetner in my drinks now but before I started fasting I used honey all the time in my tea, or sugar in the raw thinking natural was better than processed sweeteners. But if we agree with the fact that food in general elicits an insulin response then it is feasible that the natural sweeteners do so as well. And therefore could be a blockade to achieving one’s weight goal. I mean if that is the case, and one has issues listed above… Read more »

Steve b
Guest
Steve b

I have done well for quite a long while incorporating stevia , erythritol and monkfruit. i think they help in the beginning to keep fasting with coffee and with fat bombs. I am not sure i could have had great results in the beginning without those sweetners. Honestly, they didnt raise my glucose or a1c. but, they did upset my stomach and cause the Big D which is not a good thing. I am just starting to wean myself off of them but it is hard.I do believe diabetes type 2 keto and low carb is different from other low… Read more »

Steve b
Guest
Steve b

I think you should change the name of the IDM Roundup. Everytime i see “roundup” it reminds me of the worst pesticide that probably had a hand in causing half the diseases we currently face today. I love the discussions here but in America “Roundup” is a dirty word. it is the brand name for Glyphosate in the US. Just a thought

Shital Patel
Guest
Shital Patel

Is there research showing insulin stimulation with these sweeteners? Specifically erythritol and alluose?

Stacey Allison
Guest
Stacey Allison

At the very least, would you offer something that would be the best bad choice? Some of us can’t go cold turkey on a little sweetener in our coffee or tea. I just don’t enjoy it. Too bland. I lost over 60 pounds using Sweetleaf Stevia and Kroger’s Apriva drops. My A1c also dropped from over 6 to 5.4 which was likely most related to the weight loss but then again, these sweeteners did not interfere with that. I can’t imagine drinking coffee and tea without some sort of sweetener — or making low carb desserts without some of the… Read more »

Kerry Wood
Guest
Kerry Wood

I’m on board. It’s not just a sugar addiction, it’s a *sweetness* addiction. You’re not truly free until you break free of both. Kind of like an alcoholic dabbling in neer-beer. Not a good idea… Excellent post!!!

Amber
Guest
Amber

What’s your opinion on monk fruit?

Rhonda
Guest
Rhonda

It’s on the list. So I think that’s the answer.

Anita Nelson
Member
Anita Nelson

Xylitol is extremely toxic to dogs and cats. They are putting it into everything in order to reduce sugar. It’s even put into peanut butter now! (Jif and Peter Pan don’t contain it, though). It’s in almost every sugar-free gum and it’s in nicotine gum.

The way it is toxic to dogs is by dropping their blood sugar radically and if they eat to bring it up, it triggers insulin production which plunges it further. Just a piece or two of gum could kill a very small dog.

sylv
Guest

Boy, you people really are addicted to sweetners, jugding from response.

Linda
Guest
Linda

Thank you Megan!!

jason
Guest
jason

This is a pretty ridiculous little post grouping a lot of no no sweeteners in with good products. Obviously everyone is different but I only use allulose, Truvia (stevia, erythritol), or plain stevia. I have no spikes in glucose and no issues with weight management. Obviously if it says “sugar” then you should avoid it as well as syrup (maple, agave, high fructose corn, or others) and honey.

Trina Hansen
Guest
Trina Hansen

I don’t see BochaSweet on your list of sweetners. I have found this product to taste the most like sugar and love it for special treats once in a while. Here is information from their web page at https://bochasweet.com/kabocha-extract/. I would love your input. I have found this sweetner the best thing out there since sugar. But I would love to know if this really is helping to lower my A1C levels. I think it is but I’m not sure. “The kabocha is a “superfood” that has been a staple of the Japanese diet for centuries. It is widely understood… Read more »

Katerina
Guest
Katerina

As I understand the researchers recently discovered that there are taste buds in our intestines that can trigger insulin. As someone else allready pointed out the “sweetness” by itself is a problem not the type of the chemical you use. I think we are all free to decide how much we are willing to fool ourself eating “natural sweeteners”. Suger is a natural sweetener but adding sweetness to your life has already shown to make this life shorter, misarable and painfull. I’ve started to appreciate the other tastes – sour, umani, salt, bitter much more when I’ve started to avoid… Read more »

Ingrid Rajith
Guest
Ingrid Rajith

Thank you Megan and Dr. Fung: As much as I hate to admit it – I do have to corroborate your statement that the natural sweeteners for me have railroaded my weight loss. My rebellious self who decided that NO WAY WAS I GOING WITHOUT A SWEETENER THAT HAD EITHER ZERO OR NEAR ZERO GLYCEMIC INDEX RESPONSE. My reasoning was how could that possibly stop weight loss and cause a rise in blood glucose which then would set off an insulin response! Well, after several months of IF and some OMAD with a wobbly weight loss of 10-13 pounds and… Read more »