Sugar Substitutes: Friends or Enemies?

Food and nutrition

Published on 9 May 2018
by Isabelle Huot

Aspartame, sucralose, monk fruit, stevia… It’s easy to become overwhelmed by all the sugar substitutes available on the market. These low-calorie sweeteners are hiding in many grocery store products, including yogurts, diet soft drinks, chewing gum, and salad dressings. Sugar substitutes are meant to be better for weight management, but what does science have to say?


In 2017, a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal revealed that these low-calorie replacements have consequences for our health. Individuals who regularly consume sugar substitutes are more likely to become overweight and have a larger waist size and are more at risk of developing type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. Several possibilities have been proposed to explain these results, including compensation mechanisms and other psychological effects. The brain appears to be confused after sweet products containing sugar substitutes are consumed. It is likely that individuals unconsciously consume more of these products because of the imbalance between the sweet taste and the lack of calories. Researchers have also observed changes in appetite regulation and in the composition of the intestinal microbiota resulting from the consumption of sugar substitutes.


Until more studies can clarify the long-term health effects of sugar substitutes, it is recommended to limit your consumption of these sweeteners. Food products labelled “diet” are rarely a healthy choice. A better solution is to progressively wean yourself off sugar. The less sugar you eat, the less you crave it!

Isabelle Huot
Doctor in nutrition