What’s Worse for You: Sugar or Artificial Sweetener?

The Short Answer from a functional medicine specialist

What’s Worse for You: Sugar or Artificial Sweetener?

By: Mark Hyman, MD

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Q: What’s worse for you: sugar or artificial sweetener?

A: Americans consume an average of 22 teaspoons of sugar every single day. Teens consume up to 34 teaspoons a day.

One reason is added sugar. It’s in 80 percent of the products at the grocery store.

So when artificial sweeteners came along, we thought, great — they have no calories! But food isn’t just calories. It’s information. And different foods have different effects.

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Artificial sweeteners are typically 200 to 600 times sweeter than sugar. They stimulate your taste buds, go to your brain, affect your hormones and slow your metabolism.

Both sugar and artificial sweetener are addictive. But artificial sweeteners may be likelier to make you get hungry, eat more throughout the day and develop diabetes.

Sugar is OK in limited amounts and in the context of a healthy diet. (Eating a cookie you’ve made yourself is fine. You won’t crave cookies often if you change your diet because you won’t crave sweets as much.)

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But avoid highly processed store-bought cookies. Don’t buy anything with added sugar.

—Mark Hyman, MD, Director, Center for Functional Medicine

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